Utopics: The Unification of Human Science [1st ed.] 9783030541767, 9783030541774

The book consolidates systems thinking as a new world-hypothesis that is already suggesting itself behind the advancemen

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Utopics: The Unification of Human Science [1st ed.]
 9783030541767, 9783030541774

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xii
Introduction (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 1-6
The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 7-18
The “Foundation” of the Human Sciences (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 19-31
The Foundation of Utopics (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 33-67
The Prehistory of Human Science (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 69-109
The History of the Birth of Utopics (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 111-168
The Fundamental Problem of Utopics (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 169-173
The Unification of Knowledge (Manel Pretel-Wilson)....Pages 175-180
Back Matter ....Pages 181-308

Citation preview

Contemporary Systems Thinking

Manel Pretel-Wilson


The Unification of Human Science

Contemporary Systems Thinking

Series Editor: Robert L. Flood Maastricht School of Management Maastricht, The Netherlands

More information about this series at http://www.springer.com/series/5807

Manel Pretel-Wilson

Utopics The Unification of Human Science

Manel Pretel-Wilson Pretel-Wilson LLC Calonge, Spain

ISSN 1568-2846 Contemporary Systems Thinking ISBN 978-3-030-54176-7    ISBN 978-3-030-54177-4 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

This book is dedicated to my daughter, Nayade


You have in your hands, the work of our thinking imagination through its development during the history of Western philosophy and throughout the history of modern science. Until now, our understanding of the progress of knowledge has been obscured by the fact that we are blind to what actually determines the way in which scientists think what they want to understand in the universe. I call this fundamental ground shaping their thinking imagination a world-hypothesis and its development is and has always been, the genuine vocation of philosophy for nearly two and a half millennia. However, today, the situation is different because our civilization has stopped doing philosophy for too long and to such a point, that it has become a burden to the further development of science. We have long forgotten those days in which philosophy and science walked together, giving rise to the Scientific Revolution and, not so long ago, to the “evolutionary synthesis” in biology from 1936 to 1947. In contrast, the current state of philosophy has resulted in the foundational crisis in physics and its offspring, the interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics. Still more worrying, however, is the fact that there are two new domains of science that did their scientific groundwork nearly 70 years ago but are still waiting for their unification. So this book is about the history of our thinking imagination in its quest for truth by means of the development of different world-hypotheses and scientific theories to make sense of the universe. It is also about the history of separation of the human world from rest of the universe in our present age as well as the hope of reunion of anthropology and cosmology through the discovery of a new world-hypothesis coming from without Western philosophy. But there is only one possible way to realize that hope: by doing philosophy again after the decline of Western philosophy. And this means only one thing: thinking together beyond the logical limits imposed by the last world-hypothesis. This is a daunting task because that same way of thinking which gave rise to modern science has spread to all those spheres of knowledge in which we have applied logical thinking. This hope is far from being logically impossible given that behind the advancement of science there is already a different world-hypothesis suggesting itself. And all that I have done in this book is to remember how our thinking imagination got vii



itself into the present situation, in order to find a way forward that unleashes its full potential. That journey started with an understanding of the “schism in physics” that took place in 1927 through the eyes of Einstein, whose suspicious attitude towards quantum mechanics was far from arbitrary and perfectly rational under the collapse of the modern world-hypothesis. My curiosity did not stop there. In contrast to foundational crisis of physics, biology was enjoying its golden age after the “evolutionary synthesis” with the emergence of molecular biology in the early 1950s. As I found out later, that marked contrast with physics could only be due to the rise of a new world-hypothesis grounding biology given that Darwin (1859) and Mendel (1866) had already laid down the scientific groundwork much earlier. But what if that was also the case with other domains of science yet to be founded? When I continued my next journey into the foundation of biological science, I discovered that there was a group of sciences – namely, physiology, psychology and ethology – that could not be integrated in the evolutionary synthesis because they belonged to an altogether different domain of science. As with the advancement of physics, I saw hints of a new world-hypothesis now suggesting that the universe had a heterogeneous constitution not captured by the physical or the biological world. To my surprise, the concept of space and time in the cybernetic world is something unique and that specificity was the ground on which a major discovery had already been made, Ashby’s theory of adaptive behaviour enabling another pending unification: the neo-cybernetic synthesis. However, that scientific legacy is still absent from the history of science because it cannot be found in his published work but only in an unpublished Journal (1928–1972) which was made available only recently. Furthermore, the foundational idea of his general theory of cybernetic systems, namely, the existence of a feedback mechanism between the organism and its environment, is actually related to a missing physiological mechanism that solves the mystery of the cerebellar system in the light of the available scientific evidence. I was not satisfied with ending my journey here either. So I continued looking for signs of another possible unification in the domain of human science. Eureka! I discovered that the “anatomy” of the universe is constituted by spatial and temporal dimensions that introduce even more heterogeneity in our world. Likewise, the scientific groundwork regarding the laws that apply to the human world was accomplished 70 years ago and what was missing was a new concept of human system in order to reveal who were the actual founding fathers of this new domain of science, the science of utopic systems. And my conclusion at the end of this fascinating journey is that, the unlimited quest for knowledge depends, more than ever before, on the working together of present and future scientists and philosophers given that the progress in science is not independent from the progress in philosophy and that world-hypothesis is what makes logically possible the consolidation of different domains of science. Lastly, this journey into the world of knowledge was carried out along three different paths that were supposed to be turned into three separate books dealing with the foundational crisis in physics, the neo-cybernetic synthesis and the foundation of human science, respectively, but I soon discovered that they were all parts of the same project pointing the way to the future unification of knowledge. So the book



you have in your hands, including two appendixes, is my contribution towards that endless endeavour. As to its reading order, it depends on which domain of science you are most interested in but I cannot think of any scientists or general reader that is not maximally interested in understanding how our human world works and how it is being constituted by utopic systems that look into the future to realize something different from what we see today. Calonge, Spain

Manel Pretel-Wilson


1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    1 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    6 2 The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy������������������������������������������    7 2.1 The Birth of World-Hypothesis��������������������������������������������������������    7 2.2 The Periodization of Western Philosophy����������������������������������������   11 2.3 The Founders of Contemporary Philosophy������������������������������������   14 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   18 3 The “Foundation” of the Human Sciences��������������������������������������������   19 3.1 Dilthey’s Demarcation of the Human Sciences��������������������������������   19 3.2 The Birth of the Last World-Hypothesis������������������������������������������   21 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   30 4 The Foundation of Utopics����������������������������������������������������������������������   33 4.1 The Death of Western Philosophy����������������������������������������������������   33 4.2 Demarcating Philosophy from Science��������������������������������������������   39 4.3 A New World-Hypothesis����������������������������������������������������������������   44 4.3.1 How Is Something Rather than Nothing Possible?��������������   45 4.3.2 How Is the Structure of Everything Possible?����������������������   47 4.3.3 How Is Knowledge Possible? ����������������������������������������������   57 4.4 A New Concept of Human System��������������������������������������������������   64 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   66 5 The Prehistory of Human Science����������������������������������������������������������   69 5.1 The Rebirth of a New Civilization?��������������������������������������������������   69 5.2 Plato’s City-State������������������������������������������������������������������������������   71 5.3 Augustine’s God-State����������������������������������������������������������������������   78 5.4 Descartes’s Rational Nature��������������������������������������������������������������   84 5.4.1 Hobbes’s Civil Society����������������������������������������������������������   84 5.4.2 Hume’s Human Mind������������������������������������������������������������   90




5.4.3 Bentham’s Utilitarian Action������������������������������������������������   92 5.4.4 Kant’s Human Species����������������������������������������������������������   94 5.4.5 The Dionysian Anthropology������������������������������������������������   97 5.5 Cassirer’s Symbolic Animal ������������������������������������������������������������  102 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  109 6 The History of the Birth of Utopics��������������������������������������������������������  111 6.1 The Knowledge Cultures������������������������������������������������������������������  111 6.2 The Foundation of Economics����������������������������������������������������������  116 6.3 The Foundation of Ethics������������������������������������������������������������������  132 6.4 The Foundation of Jurisprudence ����������������������������������������������������  147 6.5 The Foundation of Aesthetics ����������������������������������������������������������  155 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  166 7 The Fundamental Problem of Utopics ��������������������������������������������������  169 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  173 8 The Unification of Knowledge����������������������������������������������������������������  175 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  179 Epilogue������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  181 Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics������������������������������������������������  183 Annex II: The Neo-Cybernetic Synthesis������������������������������������������������������  213 References ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  291 Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  301

Chapter 1


Utopics? What a strange title for a book, we might think. The first title that came to my mind when I started thinking about this project was the “Human Science Manifesto”. At that moment, I intended to inquire into the foundation of a new domain of science which, as I thought at the time, was only in its prehistorical period, and thus all I could hope for was to prepare the ground for its future development. But as I was moving closer to my goal, I realized that there was indeed something like a prehistory but also a comparatively recent history of human science constituted by a scientific groundwork that had escaped the attention of historians. In a short span of 80 years, a new domain of science had been born that had little in common with long prehistory of human science associated with the history of Western philosophy. More interestingly, none of those two histories coincides in fact with what we understand today as the history of the social sciences. Furthermore, as I went along understanding the constitution of our human world, I was convinced that ours was truly a utopic world, one that was crafted from the realization of possible ideas by utopic systems who have made reality what was only a thinking possibility in their imagination. And so it seemed reasonable to name utopics the study of the human world, all the more reason if I wanted to differentiate it from what we consider today the humans sciences. Furthermore, as we will learn in this book, what actually constitutes the real human world is our utopian activity rather than our linguistic activity because ours is not a symbolic universe. After justifying my choice of “utopics” for the title of this book, I should add that it was a natural choice after having termed “neo-cybernetics” another new domain of science separate from biology and on whose laws the human world depends (Appendix II). Indeed, human science would not be possible without an understanding of how the cybernetic world works as a prerequisite. Far from being an offspring emerging from the biological world, the human world overlaps with an intermediate world which cannot be explained by the laws of biology alone. And given that structural overlapping, it is all the more important to understand how the laws of the cybernetic world apply to the human world. The prefix “neo” to qualify © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_1



1 Introduction

“cybernetics” is not random because the untold history of this new domain of science is not the standard one that begins with the fathers of the cybernetic movement, Norbert Wiener and Warren McCulloch, but one that is found in Ross Ashby’s Journal (1928–1972) which was not available until 2008. However, to appreciate the birth of new domains of science, we require a torch to shell some light into the development of human thought. We cannot understand the progress in science without what I call world-hypothesis and even less in the case of human science because each “cosmology” has a corresponding “anthropology”. Indeed, without the development of world-hypothesis is impossible to understand the prehistory of human science given that the different concepts of human system have sprung from that original source. Furthermore, in the contemporary age, the influence of world-hypothesis has been such that it has helped establish its supremacy beyond the traditional human sciences in disciplines such as the sociology of knowledge or the history of science which are now informed by the concept of the symbolic animal (Cassirer 1944). I say “animal” rather than “human” because that “anthropology” has tried to ground itself scientifically on the theory of evolution by claiming that “linguistic symbolism” is a product of natural selection, a random mutation which separated “man” from the rest of the universe by opening a new dimension of reality. In every age of Western history, we have conceived ourselves according to a different world-hypothesis determining our thinking imagination since the Greeks. That was the beginning of the prehistory of human science with the first concept of human system rather than the second half of the nineteenth century as is generally believed when modern sociology was born with Auguste Comte. What has gone unnoticed, however, is that the concept of society itself is one of the modern concepts of human system that originated with Hobbes in the mid-seventeenth century under the influence of a new world-hypothesis. We cannot go without world-­ hypothesis as it constitutes the most fundamental ground of human thought, and we can go as far as claiming that it shapes thinking itself in as much as it determines was is logically possible or impossible to think within a given “cosmology”. In the case of science, world-hypothesis is so fundamental that no thought experiment would be possible without one as they determine what scientists can imagine as being logically possible or impossible to conceive. In fact, a good case in point is how Einstein viewed with suspicion with the implications of the quantum formalism as it meant the acceptance of physical phenomena that were logically impossible within the modern world-hypothesis such as the problem of non-contiguity suggested by the famous EPR paradox (Einstein et al. 1935). In fact, the interpretation of that paradox in terms of non-locality or action at a distance actually confirms that we are still under the influence of the last logical possibility conceivable within that “cosmology”. Furthermore, that same way of thinking has also been felt in biology where the current biological concept of species assumes that populations coexist next to each other occupying different spaces rather than sharing the same ecosystem evolving together. Indeed, it seems logically impossible to think scientifically without the all-encompassing principle of contiguity at the core of the modern world-hypothesis on which general relativity was founded.

1 Introduction


This world-hypothesis has permitted the evolution of modern science since the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century by grounding physics until the birth of quantum mechanics in the late 1920s and making possible two syntheses in science, the first the Newtonian and then the Maxwellian. In fact, a physicist such as De Broglie (1924) was hoping that his new theory of quanta, founded on the same logical ground, would bring the third synthesis but, instead, what resulted was the foundational crisis of physics and its by-product, the current interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics. What is the quantum formalism telling us about the quantum world? Most quantum physicists seem to believe that we live in a world of simultaneous probabilities which collapse into an actual observable event after an experiment has been conducted, but before that moment they all equally real. Indeed, before the observer interferes with its measurement, all possibilities are all equally existing somehow though nobody knows were but certainly not in the ordinary three-dimensional space. In particular, we are told that what the quantum formalism is telling us is that in the subatomic world, particles behave as probability wave in Hilbert space, that is, an abstract object in an abstract space! Are we not missing a “cosmology” altogether by claiming so? Well, that was the conclusion of the Solvay 1927 Conference when the Copenhagen interpretation was established. That foundational crisis in physics made me realized that what had shaped the scientific imagination for three centuries was a world-hypothesis whose fertility ended with the development of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. However, its collapse with the birth of quantum mechanics in the mid-1920s gave a lot of “headaches” to the great scientists that did not accept the emerging consensus, such as Einstein, De Broglie, and Schrödinger, because it was logically impossible to develop a field theory that could unite macrophysics with microphysics. What physicists have not realized to this day, however, is that they are lacking another compass to guide their disciplined thinking imagination. In contrast, biologists are enjoying now their golden age after the evolutionary synthesis in the late 1930s and 1940s increasing their own scientific prestige and they have even demonstrated that their science has many applications derived from the discoveries in molecular biology. Biologists are now looking down on physicists even if some biologists have credited Schrödinger (1944) for inspiring their own research leading to the discovery of double helix structure of DNA. What biologists are unaware, however, is that the evolutionary synthesis was made possible by a different world-hypothesis grounding the mayor discoveries made by Darwin and Mendel nearly 90  years earlier. Indeed, so far, all the unifications in science have depended on a world-hypothesis. If that is the case, science in general is grounded on world-hypothesis. And the implication is clear, human science as such has also to be grounded on a new world-­ hypothesis which is something that, to this day, has only happened in the physical and the biological sciences. Furthermore, what I have said about these consolidated sciences is also the case in the new domain of neo-cybernetics whose pending unification is made logically possible by a new world-hypothesis (Appendix II). Does this mean that we need four world-hypotheses, one for each domain of science? Of course not, then maybe we can make do with the one grounding biology? That is also logically impossible because each domain of science, including human science,


1 Introduction

assumes a different concept of space and time that only applies to the world they are studying. This means we have to forget thinking in terms of the homogenous concept of space-time in which time is like space? No, contrary to the modern world-­ hypothesis, space and time are non-homogeneous dimensions of the universe, that is, time is not another dimension of space but an altogether different dimension of the universe. Instead, what we require is one single world-hypothesis that does justice to the heterogeneity of the actual structure of the universe in order to ground science in general, from the physical to the human sciences. And that new world-­ hypothesis has to make possible a new concept of human system informing the science of utopic systems. We have explained what a world-hypothesis is, something that makes possible logical thinking itself, and, in the case of science, that way of thinking has led to fruitful theories making more transparent the universe right in front of our eyes. So, in a way, we can say that world-hypotheses enable us to see further and further into the universe. This is certainly the case with the current world-hypothesis which opened our eyes to the world of biological phenomena which could not be properly understood in the light of our previous world-hypothesis. However, the prevalent world-hypothesis is blind to the world of cybernetic phenomena because it conceives an organism as being something separate from its environment and thus it cannot break free from the principle of contiguity. This is the other fundamental aspect of world-hypothesis as it makes possible not only thinking but seeing itself because it rules out as being logically impossible some phenomena before our very eyes. A good example is the phenomenon of quantum entanglement which only becomes transparent within a new world-hypothesis. Indeed, our very thinking and seeing in science is shaped by world-hypothesis, and, thus, it determines what we see and blind us to what is logically impossible to see according to a given “cosmology”. Again, Einstein’s uncompromising attitude towards quantum mechanics until the end of this life is very revealing; we only have to look at his discussions first with Neil Bohr and later with Max Born (Appendix I). Now it is time to explain the actual origin of world-hypothesis. We mentioned earlier that the prehistory of human science was born in Greece, particularly, in the early fourth century BC. We have been told that Western philosophy started a couple of centuries earlier with “the transition from mythos to logos” originating in the west coast of Asia Minor (Anatolia) thanks to the Milesian school named after its founder, Thales of Miletus. However, Thales and his disciples did not work out a world-hypothesis as such though they are often depicted as the first cosmologists and fathers of scientific thinking. We also hear from the historians of philosophy that the pre-Socratics, a label that also includes other schools, where the first to inquire about cosmos and that it was not until Socrates that “man” entered that picture. Therefore, if cosmology was not the main philosophical focus after Socrates, how can I argue that world-­hypothesis was born then? Well, first we have to understand what we mean by the birth of philosophy. According to Plato, “philosophy begins in wonder,” but I would add that curiosity without a clear subject-matter was not the origin of philosophy. In fact, it was Plato himself who was the first to formulate a fundamental philosophical question the answer of which originated the first

1 Introduction


world-hypothesis: how is something rather than nothing possible? So I would say that world-hypothesis begins in a philosophical question though not every answer to a philosophical question results in a “cosmology”. That first question that attracted Plato’s wonder has a special place in the domain of philosophy because it was the primordial question at the root of any philosophical inquiry. What I will try to demonstrate in this book is that there is a relationship between the primordial question of philosophy and the fundamental problem of utopics. More precisely, between philosophy and science, given that philosophy is neither divorced from science nor science is independent from philosophy. But to trace this relationship, we will have to show how the answers to the fundamental questions of philosophy result in a new world-hypothesis grounding science in general, from physics to human science. That marriage between philosophy and science does not mean that they belong to the same domain of knowledge as they have to be distinguished from each other in the same way as we differentiate the different domains of science. The interesting thing is that our new world-hypothesis will show us that the way in which we distinguish the different domains of science is not arbitrary as it depends on the discovering the actual structure of the universe, another fundamental question of philosophy. In order to differentiate philosophy from science, however, we will need to provide a demarcation according to the type of questions, hypotheses, facts, and methods of discovery that characterize each domain of knowledge. Crucially, from our philosophical investigations, we will discover that ours is a selfdetermined universe constituted by entangled self-determined systems sharing the same space and time and working together with other self-determined systems. And more importantly, our new world-hypothesis will work out the corresponding new concept of human system at the heart of the new science of utopic systems. As to how the book is structured, it starts with the identification of the fundamental questions of philosophy on whose answers we depend for the discovery of a new world-hypothesis grounding human science. This will mean clarifying the grand divisions of the history of Western philosophy corresponding to the different world-­ hypotheses that have defined each period and showing how the end of the modern age started with Nietzsche but terminated with Scheler, the last modern philosopher. The result of this investigation will bring into question no only the standard periodization of the history of philosophy suggested by our great authorities on this matter, and, more importantly, we will be able to explain the first time what marks the transition from modern to contemporary philosophy. In the next chapter, I discuss the problem of the “foundation” of the human sciences tracing its origin to the work of Dilthey who is credited for having provided the distinction between the human sciences and the natural sciences, and I will continue with the solution given by Husserl to the more general problem of the foundation of science in general. Since this was the fundamental question informing contemporary philosophy, we will see that this reorientation of philosophy gave birth to the current world-­ hypothesis, the cultural world. The following chapter provides a demarcation to distinguish philosophy from science in order to specify the domain of worldhypothesis which can be discovered by investigating the fundamental questions of philosophy in the same logical order in which they appeared and by means of the


1 Introduction

hypothetico-inductive method, the method of philosophy. At the end of this philosophical inquiry, we will be in a position to derive a new concept of human system (anthropology) from a new world-hypothesis (cosmology) to inform human science. This will set the ground to write the prehistory of human science constituted by the different “anthropologies” emerging from the four “cosmologies” that have prevailed in the history of Western philosophy, namely, the city-state, the God-­state, our rational nature, and the symbolic animal. Only after closing the chapter on the prehistory of human science, we will then be able to open a new chapter on the birth of utopics by introducing the scientific groundwork in economics, ethics, jurisprudence, and aesthetics and showing how our new concept of utopic system is essential to search for the true founding fathers of this new domain of science. However, the fundamental question unifying utopics will have to be investigated in a separate chapter as it depends on clarifying further each subject-matter within the domain of human science and finding a fundamental question that does not downplay any of the essential aspects constituting the human world. Finally, we will close this book with the answer to the last fundamental question of philosophy showing how the grounding of science in general is made possible by a new world-­hypothesis pointing the way to the beginning of the unification of knowledge.

References Ashby, W. R. (2008). Journal (1928–1972), The W. Ross Ashby digital archive, 2008. http://www. rossashby.info/journal. Accessed 19 May 2020. Broglie, L. (1924). [2004] On the theory of Quanta, Paris: Fondation Louis de Broglie. Cassirer, E. (1944). An essay on man: An introduction to the philosophy of culture. New Haven: Yale University Press. Einstein, A., Podolsky, B., & Rosen, N. (1935). Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete? Physical Review, 47, 777–780. Schrödinger, E. (1944). What is life: The physical aspect of the living cell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 2

The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy

2.1  The Birth of World-Hypothesis It is generally acknowledged that Western philosophy was born in ancient Greece with Thales of Miletus (624–546 BC), who, according to Aristotle (350 BC), is said to have been the first philosopher to inquire into the “material principles” constituting everything in the universe: That of which all things consist, from which they first come and into which on their destruction they are ultimately resolved […] this, they say, is an element and principle of all existing things. (Ibid: I, C3)

The material cause, however, was only one of the “primary causes”, the one that explained what persisted behind the changes in the universe, but since “it is surely not the substrate itself which cause itself to change”, that knowledge had to be complemented with the source of motion to explain what can “generate the nature of things that are”, and that was the task of later philosophers who investigated “the second type of cause”, the efficient cause. Those milestones preceded Aristotle’s own discovery of the “science of the first causes” to which he added the formal and the final cause which had been either absent from or not clearly explained in any of the previous philosophies. Aristotle’s own account of the contributions of his predecessors has exerted a considerable influence on the historians of Western philosophy, particularly the idea that Thales of Miletus was the first philosopher and that the pre-Socratics were the first to investigate the cosmos. In addition, every student of ancient philosophy has also been exposed to the thesis of the “Greek miracle” as a “the transition from myth to logos” brought forth by the pre-Socratics. We are told that before them reason was not separate from myth but mixed together as in Hesiod’s Theogony (700 BC) in which the origin of the cosmos is explained through a succession of primordial deities born from Chaos. Of course, this myth could not satisfy the seeker of truth, the philosopher, but should we accept the “Greek miracle” to explain the origin of philosophy? But what is © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_2



2  The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy

philosophy? Etymologically speaking, philosophy is the “love of wisdom”, and, as Plato said, “philosophy begins in wonder”. However, science also begins in wonder, and the philosopher who loves wisdom also loves science in as much as he loves all knowledge. It seems we cannot go very far with this understanding of philosophy given that science is also a quest for truth that also starts with curiosity. Maybe the way to clarify philosophy’s genuine vocation is to question Aristotle’s belief that Thales was the first philosopher, something assumed by all the authorities in the history of Western philosophy. We have seen how Aristotle framed the history of the first philosophers who had begun to inquire into something he had completed, the science of the first causes or “wisdom”. But what are the reasons given by the major historians of philosophy? In the case of Hegel (1805–1831), he distinguished three important periods in Greek philosophy, the first of which covers from Thales to Aristotle, with whom the beginning of philosophy ends in “the unity of what has come before”. Every philosophical inquiry before him had prepared the ground to end in him. In particular, “We begin with thought, as it is in a quite abstract, natural or sensuous form” (Ibid [1892–1896], Vol. I: 163). This sensuous form of thought of the Milesian school was then opposed the pure thought of Anaxagoras’s nous as a dialectical movement of the mind that culminated in a “concrete Idea”. Again, similar to Aristotle, Hegel is also framing the history of philosophy according to his own philosophical scheme in the same way as he sees the ancient and medieval period ending in modern philosophy when the “absolute spirit” starts to become transparent to itself and more so in his own time. In other words, for Hegel, the awakening of philosophical thought came from the mind’s encounter with nature starting off a dialectical process that would end with the absolute spirit knowing itself. However, this explanation of the birth of philosophy is not very illuminating because it could equally apply to science. In addition, Hegel minimizes the significance of who I consider to be the founding father of philosophy: “In Plato there is just such a union of what came earlier, but it is not worked out” (Ibid.). Our next authority, Bréhier (1926), was not very satisfied with Aristotle’s thesis but started with Thales for practical reasons because it was difficult to trace the prehistory of philosophy back to the “primitive mentality”, a plausible thesis associated with the anthropologist Lévy-Bruhl (1922). We could describe his position as the “the transition from mythos to logos” without the “Greek miracle” since Thales would be working out what was already present in some primitive mentality whether Greek or Oriental. Furthermore, this transition assumes that the Western civilization experienced a shift from pre-logical to logical thought, from a mythical to a rational mentality. However, this contradicts what another influential anthropologist had confirmed with his ethnographic work. According to Malinowski (1925): In every primitive community, studied by trustworthy and competent observers, there have been found two clearly distinguishable domains, the Sacred and the Profane; in other words, the domain of Magic and Religion and that of Science. (Ibid [1948]: 1)

2.1  The Birth of World-Hypothesis


But if this is the case, we cannot describe pre-Western communities as being pre-­ rational given that most of their life took place within the domain of the Profane with only some moments devoted to the Sacred. So, if there have never been any pre-logical human societies before the Greeks, the “transition from myth to logos” is false. Maybe Copleston (1946) can illuminate this issue with a better explanation. Rather than a radical shift, what he argues for is gradual transition from myth to philosophy, “the myth-element retreating before growing rationalization yet not disappearing. Indeed it is present in Greek philosophy even in post-Socratic times” (Ibid: 17). But, like his predecessors, he agrees that Ionia or the Milesian school is “the cradle of Western thought”: The splendid achievement of Greek thought was cradled in Ionia; and if Ionia was the cradle of Greek philosophy, Miletus was the cradle of Ionian philosophy. For it was at Miletus that Thales, the reputedly earliest Ionian philosopher, flourished. (Ibid.)

Moreover, though reason was gradually separating from myth, philosophy and science were mixed together, “with the Ionians science and philosophy are not yet distinguished” (Ibid: 21). Lastly, Russell (1945) went one step further in suggesting that Thales was the father of both philosophy and science: Philosophy begins with Thales, who, fortunately, can be dated by the fact that he predicted an eclipse which, according to Astronomers, occurred in the year 585 B.C. Philosophy and science – which were not originally separate – were therefore born together at the beginning of the sixth century. (Ibid [1946]: 21)

According to his own view, philosophy and theology were mixed together before the Greek miracle after which philosophy separated from theology. Unfortunately, “After running its course in antiquity, it was again submerged by theology as Christianity rose and Rome fell” (Ibid: 11). Accordingly, Russell labels the medieval period “Catholic philosophy” as if philosophy was again mixed with religion. What all these explanations have in common is that they assume that philosophy was born when non-logical thought was replaced by logical thought and that moment coincided with the Greek miracle giving birth to both philosophy and science. The ethnographic evidence should have been enough to question the Greek miracle given that there is not difference in terms of rationality between Western and pre-Western civilizations. However, earlier archaeological evidence also contradicts the claim that our ancestors had a primitive mentality. The use of tools by the extinct Homo ergaster and Homo habilis who lived between 2,1 and 1,4 million years ago shows that even pre-Homo sapiens thought logically. Someone might argue that this is only practical thought but not the type of thought needed to predict an eclipse, for instance. However, according to Gerald Hawkins (1963) and Hoyle (1966), the Aubrey holes at Stonehenge I (3100 BC) had already been used to predict lunar and solar eclipses. If so, the Greek miracle is not so exceptional because our ancestors were also “wise men” like Thales. But surely, science and philosophy must be a different type of thought. In contrast to my predecessors, it is my conviction that these fundamental forms of knowledge were not born together with Thales. Why? Basically, and this is the main argument of the present book, because science is


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grounded on philosophy. In particular, for science to develop as a different domain of knowledge, it had to be grounded on a world-hypothesis. And though it was logically possible for them to been born simultaneously, the first world-hypothesis worked out by Plato was not suitable to ground science. Strictly speaking, the origin of science dates back to Galileo’s principle of inertia grounded on the modern world-hypothesis founded by Descartes (1596–1650). To my knowledge, I have only come across one historian of science who noticed this fact. “Inertial motion, it will be recalled, had entered science as a physical consequence of Descartes’ geometrization of space-matter” (Gillispie 1960 [2016]: 367). To do justice to Hegel but more to the origin of philosophy, we have to agree with his claim that Plato’s Parmenides (c. 370 BC) was the best book of ancient philosophy though this contradicts, of course, what he had said about Aristotle’s superiority. Anyway, it is only in Plato’s mature work that we see the birth of philosophy as a world-hypothesis informed by the dualism of the One and the Many. Contrary to what is normally assumed, Plato never postulated an intelligible world separate from the sensible world. Instead, in that masterwork, we will see how the one is identified with the many in as much as the one is not beyond the many. In other words, reality is not constituted by two parallel worlds, the world of shadows and the world of ideas, but by one single sensible world with an intelligible structure constituted by immutable ideas. This first world-hypothesis could not be born out of pure wonder since the amazement before the multiplicity of the world is something we see in the pre-Socratics, indeed, but nobody before Plato had provided a rational answer to something which nobody could deny: that there is something. But that undeniable fact which many human beings had thought about even before the pre-­ Socratics was not turned into a fundamental philosophical question until Plato: how is something rather than nothing possible? We can claim that he was the first to do so because, to my knowledge, there is no written evidence of any previous philosopher to have provided a philosophical answer to that primordial question. Furthermore, even if someone before Plato had formulated and answered that same question, it was Plato’s merit to have introduced the first world-hypothesis that shaped the thinking imagination of the Western civilization. Prior to that moment, it makes little sense to argue that the pre-Socratics were the first philosophers because what they produced was nothing close to a world-hypothesis or a new way of thinking determining our thinking imagination. Instead, the origin of philosophy is the birth of world-hypothesis with Plato’s Parmenides. Having said this, the first world-­ hypothesis was not fully worked out by Plato since other philosophers such as Aristotle, who studied in the Academy for 20 years before founding his own Lyceum in 334–335 BC, also contributed to its development. We can even venture to say that ancient philosophy finished with the Neoplatonic School founded by Plotinus and, in particular, with the last ancient philosopher, Iamblichus (242–325 AD), whose cosmology culminated Plotinus’s Enneads (270 AD).

2.2  The Periodization of Western Philosophy


2.2  The Periodization of Western Philosophy Once the origin of philosophy has been clarified, its whole periodization becomes problematic because its divisions do not correspond to the different world-­ hypotheses that have shaped the Western way of thinking. According to Hegel (1805–1831), the first period went “from Thales, 550 B.C, to Proclus, who died 485 A.D, and until the disappearance of pagan philosophy as an outward institution, 529 A.D.” (Ibid [1892–1896], Vol. III: 1). However, according to this periodization, the father of the next world-hypothesis, Augustine of Hippo (354–430 AD), was part of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Indeed, the Church Fathers “for the most part lived within the ancient Roman world and in Latin culture”, and “they introduced Philosophy, and more especially Neo-Platonic philosophy, into the Church” (Ibid: 11). In fact, for Hegel, Augustine is a minor philosopher who is only mentioned in relation to the influence he exerted on true philosophers of the medieval period. “The Schoolmen are the principal figures in this period; they represent European philosophy in the European Middle Ages” (Ibid: 25). What is also problematic is his exclusion of another great philosopher for that period, Scotus Eriugena (810–877 AD). Indeed, though acknowledging that he was an “author of some original works, which are not without depth and penetration, upon nature and its various orders”, he could not help “expressing himself in the manner of the Neo-Platonists, and not freely, and as from himself” (Ibid: 59). This suggests that Hegel did not realize that Augustine and Eriugena had been major philosophers determining the way of thinking in that period. Neglecting their philosophical contribution, however, meant neglecting two pillars of the medieval cosmology. But Hegel did not understand the vocation of medieval philosophy as doing philosophy but as contributing to theology and, thus, could claim that “Anselm and Abelard are the more distinguished” philosophers of that period. Accordingly, medieval philosophy was the philosophy done by the Christian Church. From this point of view, it is not surprising that Bréhier (1927) denies that Christianity offers a new cosmology. “The spiritual life of the Christians evolved alongside the Greek cosmos without giving birth to a new concept of reality” (Ibid [1965]: 225). In fact, he claims “that there is no Christian philosophy”. On the other hand, though Augustine is still included in the previous era, at least he recognizes that “despite his sympathy for them, Saint Augustine is far from the Platonists”. Moreover, unlike Hegel, he considers Scotus Eriugena a great medieval philosopher who occupies a long section in the chapter devoted to “the Early Middle Ages”. Yet, this period opens with Boethius, the “last Roman”, thanks to whom the Late Middle Ages had access to the translations of some of Aristotle’s logical works. This is in keeping with his idea that medieval philosophy did not produce any philosophy as such; maybe it was at best a revisiting of Greek philosophy. Finally, unlike his predecessors, Copleston (1950) did decide to publish six chapters on Augustine given the importance of the “Pre-mediaeval Influences” on medieval philosophy. In his own words, “St. Augustine belonged to the period of the Roman Empire”, and, following the standard interpretation, his “philosophical affiliations were with Platonism”, so he “cannot be termed


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medieval” (Ibid: 1). On the other hand, he is the first to consider John Scotus Eriugena as “the first outstanding philosopher of the Middle Ages” (Ibid: 33). What an irony, all these historians believe that Thales was the father of Western philosophy though none agrees on who were the founders of medieval philosophy. According to Hegel, it started with the philosophers of the Christian Church, the Scholastics (Anselm and Abelard); for Brehier, there were no founders as such because, philosophically speaking, it began with the “last Roman”, Boethius, who he himself recognizes as “not being original”; and, for Copleston, there is not original philosophy in that period until Scotus Eriugena. However, the father of analytical philosophy, Russell (1945), disagreed with the historians on this point. “The first great period of Catholic philosophy was dominated by Saint Augustine” but also in the second period because “the dualism of the City of God, however, survives in full force” (Ibid [1946]: 324). He was referring to the “dualism of the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world” already “found in the New Testament”. And he was right that the founder of medieval philosophy introduced a dualism prevailing throughout that period. Yet, it was a new dualism defining the new medieval cosmology only found in Saint Augustine’s City of God (426 AD): the Visible-Invisible dualism. Indeed, according to Augustine, God’s creation was a hierarchical structure constituted by visible creatures, namely, stones, trees, animals and humans, and invisible creatures, angels. In this created world, humans were given an intermediate position because God “made man in His own image. For He created him a soul endowed with reason and intelligence so that he might excel all the creatures of earth, air, and sea, which were not so gifted” (Ibid: XII, C23). This was Augustine’s original answer to another fundamental philosophical question according to another fact: that everything is structured somehow. If so, how is the structure of everything possible? This is why I consider Augustine as the father of medieval philosophy because the answer to that question he gave birth to a new world-hypothesis. Moving closer to our time, do we find the same discrepancy as to who are the founders of modern philosophy? No, here there seems to be more agreement among the authorities. Hegel (1805–1831) acknowledges that “with Descartes, the philosophy of modern times as abstract thought properly speaking begins” (Ibid [1892–1896], Vol. III: 166). Yet, in keeping with his dialectical thinking, that unity is preceded by two opposing philosophers, Bacon and Boehme, with whom he starts the period. Unlike the former period, which was about “philosophising theology”, “it is not until Descartes is arrived at that we really enter upon a philosophy which is, properly speaking, independent” (Ibid: 218). This was the same assumption we saw in Brehier and Russell: medieval philosophy, mainly represented by the Christian Church, is not philosophy per se despite its Greek influences, namely, Plato and Aristotle. This contradicts our idea that genuine philosophy is informed by a fundamental question whose answer results in a world-hypothesis which applies equally to the medieval period. Anyway, coming back to the modern age, Bréhier (1932) argues that “man’s image of external nature” changes: “the vital, exuberant spontaneity that men like Bruno saw in nature gave way to the rigid rules of mechanism” (Ibid [1966]: 9). Nature loses its life and every animated being is

2.2  The Periodization of Western Philosophy


transformed into a mere machine made of atoms. He accepts Hegel’s (1805–1831) claim that thanks to “Gassendi, the opponent of Descartes, the atom theory of Epicurus was again revived” (Ibid [1892–1896], Vol. III: 112). What they could not realize was that Descartes had worked out a new concept of matter, divisible corpuscles, which was consistent with the modern world-hypothesis and that was at odds with Democritus’ indivisible atoms in the void. As to who was the founder of the modern period, Brehier was unable to decide between Bacon’s “experimental philosophy” and Descartes’ “universal mechanicism”, so he decided to write two separate chapters. But were they the co-founders of the period? Well, Bacon had already died when Descartes answered the next philosophical question in his Discourse on the Method (1637) resulting in the next world-hypothesis. In the case of Copleston (1958), though he acknowledges that “modern philosophy is generally said to have begun with Descartes (1596–1650) or with Francis Bacon (1561–1626)” (Ibid: 1), the latter is without doubt the true “father of modern philosophy”. He also questions Brehier’s understanding of Descartes as being a universal mechanicist because this view did not do justice to his philosophical system. For Descartes, “man as a whole cannot be simply reduced to a member of this mechanical system. For he possesses a spiritual mind which transcends the material world” (Ibid: 12). And he was right in claiming so; Descartes (1637) had discovered something which did not quite fit within the material cosmology, the thinking subject. But this immaterial substance was the first undoubtable logical truth he arrived at. As he reasoned, though I can doubt about every object entering my mind, I cannot possibly doubt about myself whose “whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which […] has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing” (Ibid [1913]: 35–36). Indeed, the Subject-Object dualism would define the next world-­hypothesis. Contrary to what Descartes believed, his inquiry did not start with the Cartesian doubt, questioning everything he had assumed until then, but with an assumed fact. If there is knowledge, how is knowledge possible? Again, the result of that answer would bring forth a new world-hypothesis, material world. In the new cosmology, the world was conceived as being something external to the mind and whose nature consists in being extended in length, breadth, and depth, and that space plenum is occupied by extended bodies divisible into corpuscles, his new concept of matter. So far, we have introduced the three fundamental philosophical questions opening the traditional periods in the history of the Western philosophy with new world-­ hypotheses. And we have also seen how the lack of understanding of the genuine vocation of philosophy makes the current periodization problematic as there are major differences of opinion among the authorities due to that fact. Maybe we can draw a table (Table 2.1) to show the disagreement as to who are the fathers or first philosophers in each period. The only general agreement seems to be that Thales is the father of both philosophy and science and that Descartes is the founder of modern philosophy. In relation to Augustine, except for Russell and Copleston, he is regarded as a minor philosopher, and nobody, again excluding Russell, considers him as belonging to the medieval period. Furthermore, except for Copleston, they seem to agree that medieval philosophy was nothing but theology. In the words of Russell (1945), “Catholic


2  The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy

Table 2.1  Credited “founders” of Western philosophy Hegel (1805–1831) Bréhier (1926–1932) Russell (1945) Copleston (1946–1958)

Antique Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus

Medieval Anselm-Abelard Boethius Augustine of Hippo Scotus Eriugena

Modern Descartes Bacon-Descartes Descartes Descartes

philosophy is essentially the philosophy of an institution, namely the Catholic Church” (Ibid [1946]: 326). It is too easy to simplify the history of Western philosophy, as Russell does, by saying that in the first period, philosophy became independent from myth; in the second period, philosophy was dominated by Christian religion; and, finally, in the third period, science became independent from philosophy. I believe this confusion comes from not distinguishing clearly the domain of philosophy from that of science and believing, as he does, that philosophy “is something intermediate between theology and science”. Unfortunately, I will have to postpone the demarcation between philosophy and science to the fourth chapter in which we will start our philosophical journey.

2.3  The Founders of Contemporary Philosophy What about the contemporary age, what is the philosophy dominating the present period? Among the authorities, I am sure that Russell would have liked his school of thought, “the philosophy of logical analysis”, to have achieved that prevalent position. In fact, today, that movement is called analytical philosophy which is defined in opposition to continental philosophy. These labels remind me to the division of modern philosophy into rationalism and empiricism which has been convenient to classify schools but does not clarify much. Given that we cannot ask Hegel to help us here, as he died before Nietzsche, maybe the other historians have some ideas as to what makes contemporary philosophy different from modern philosophy. Indeed, we are told by Bréhier (1932) that “about 1890, a new period began” with “the spiritualism of Henri Bergson”. In the case of Copleston (1966, 1975), though he had more time to think about this question, he could not decide between Russell (1872–1970) and Sartre (1905–1980), that is, either analytic philosophy or existentialism, so he expanded his history of philosophy with two extra volumes. In other words, today, there is still less agreement on who are the first contemporary philosophers though nobody questions that Nietzsche was the last modern philosopher. Of course, that issue will only be decided once we discover the founding fathers of the present “cosmology”. Before we do so, however, we have to say something about the end of the modern world-hypothesis which means revisiting Nietzsche’s philosophy.

2.3  The Founders of Contemporary Philosophy


“Why I Am a Destiny”, this is the title of Nietzsche’s last chapter of Ecce Homo (1888b), the last book he wrote before becoming insane, we are told. According to Copleston (1963), “the works of this year show evident signs of extreme tension and mental instability, and Ecce Homo in particular, with its exalted self-assertion, gives a marked impression of psychical disturbance” (Ibid [1994]: 406). On the contrary, I would claim that that year, 1888, was the most productive in Nietzsche’s philosophical career giving birth not to one but to five works of which Ecce Homo and the Twilight of the Idols are true signs of lucidity rather than madness. In “Why I Am a Destiny”, Nietzsche writes that “there will come a day when my name will recall the memory of something formidable – a crisis the like of which has never been known on Earth […] upon all that which theretofore has been believed, exacted, and hallowed” (Ibid [1911]: 49). So it is time to explain why Nietzsche was to say of himself that “I am not a man, I am dynamite”. Ever since he wrote the Birth of Tragedy (1872), he believed himself to be the “last disciple of the philosopher Dionysus”, who is better understood as an antithesis of Apollo. “He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) is the ‘shinning one’, the deity of light, also rules over the fair appearance of the inner world of fantasies” (Ibid [1923]: 24). In contrast, Dionysus takes pleasure in destroying the world of appearance whose origin, philosophically speaking, goes back to the first theoretical man, Socrates, “the mystagogue of science” and “the turning-point and vortex of so-called universal history” (Ibid: 117). In a retrospective review of that work, Nietzsche (1886) tell us that “what I then laid hands on, something terrible and dangerous […] was the problem of science itself, science conceived for the first time as problematic, as questionable” (Ibid: 3). So the problem he was attacking was not “the problem of modern culture” or the “German culture of his time”; as the historians believe, those are just symptoms of “a new problem”. What was at stake was the fundamental philosophical question of the modern age whose answer had given birth to new world-­ hypothesis. In answering the question of how is knowledge possible, Descartes had assumed that true knowledge is a matter of fact, but what if knowledge is appearance? “My truth is terrible; for hitherto lies have been called truth”, we hear him saying in “Why I Am a Destiny” (1888). Indeed, “I was the first to discover truth, and for the simple reason that I was the first who became conscious of falsehood as falsehood” (Ibid [1911]: 132). However, according to Nietzsche (1872), the root cause of the decay of the “modern man” is not linked directly to Descartes but to Socrates, who represents the “theorist equipped with the most potent means of knowledge, and labouring in the service of science” (Ibid [1909]: 137). So what was Nietzsche’s solution to the crisis of the problem of knowledge? Well, in the second part of Thoughts Out of Season (1874), we read that “science is now beginning to rule life”. “Must life dominate knowledge, or knowledge life? […]: life is the higher, and the dominating power” (Ibid [1910]: 96). Knowledge cannot dominate life because philosophy and science are conscious thoughts dominated by instincts. Indeed, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886), he goes as far as saying that “behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, there are valuations, or to speak more plainly, physiological demands” (Ibid [1917]: 4). If this is the case, then knowledge is just a mere instrument in the service of life, and the


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traditional concept of man as a rational nature has to be questioned since we are nothing but instinctive animals. This also means questioning Descartes’ subject, “the soul-atomism”, “the belief which regards the soul as something indestructible, eternal, indivisible” (Ibid: 14). Instead, given that the “materialism atomism” is “one of the best refuted theories”, “this belief ought to be expelled from science!”. We need a “new psychology” based on a different “soul-hypothesis”. This indicates that Nietzsche was not against science per se since he even proposes several notions to replace the modern subject such as “soul of subjective multiplicity” or “soul as social structure of the instincts and passions”. These alternative hypotheses ought to “have legitimate rights in science” as they open a “profounder world of insight” to the daring psychologist who wants to venture the soul of man. Someone opposed to science could never claim that “psychology shall once more be recognized as the queen of sciences, for whose service and equipment the other sciences exist” (Ibid: 27). Nietzsche’s solution is clear: the concept of man as rational nature has to be destroyed. To do so, in the Twilight of the Idols (1888a), the “problem of Socrates” demands a “return to nature”, though this is not a return to the “state of nature” in order to get rid of the corruption of man from living in society, as Rousseau wanted, because “it is not really a going-back but a going-up – up into a high, free, even frightful nature and naturalness, such as plays with great tasks, is permitted to play with them” ([1979]:101). In other words, natural instincts should not be concealed behind an artificial soul, and only when life dominates reason, the “above man” will kill the theoretical man. This is why Nietzsche thought he was a Destiny as he had destroyed the ground of the modern world-hypothesis, the thinking subject or Descartes’ the first undoubtable truth, namely, that the subject “has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing”. However, by questioning the answer to the fundamental question of how is knowledge possible, he was signalling the beginning of the end of the modern world-hypothesis. Why do we say the “beginning of the end”? Well, because Nietzsche was not the last modern philosopher as we will see later. Nietzsche’s message would soon be heard by a movement against reason which Bochénski (1947) named the “philosophy of life” in which he included Henri Bergson, pragmatism and historicism. “Their philosophy is actually a biologistic philosophy, which fixes its whole attention upon life and it is in no position to grasp superior realities […] it is sheer animal life which acts as the focus of their attention” (Ibid [1956]: 127). However, historicism, which flourished at the end of the nineteenth century, with representatives such as Dilthey (1883), did not give rise to a new world-hypothesis because it was merely a reaction against the prevailing world-­hypothesis grounding the physical sciences. It could not accept identifying the human sciences with the natural sciences because “the facts of the human world cannot be subordinated to those established by the mechanistic conception of nature” (Ibid [1989]: 63). Furthermore, Dilthey was also against conceiving the human being as rational nature because “in the real life-process, willing, feeling, and thinking are only different aspects” (Ibid: 51). However, despite opposing the modern world-hypothesis, there was no lack of authors like Mannheim (1924) claiming that historicism was a new “worldview” in as much as “the idea of

2.3  The Founders of Contemporary Philosophy


evolution was undoubtedly the crystallization point, the philosophical axis of the new history as well as that of the new view of life” (Ibid [1952]: 86). In addition, Bochénski (1947) identified two other movements at the beginning of the twentieth century though, strictly speaking, were not philosophies as such. “Above all, mathematical logic and phenomenology are methods, not doctrines” (Ibid [1956]: 18). The former had its main representative in Russell’s (and Whitehead’s) Principia Mathematica (1910–1913) and the latter in Husserl’s Logical Investigations (1900). And yet, though they both started as a rational method, phenomenology would soon become a philosophy in its own right, the “philosophy of essence”. However, this was not the only or the main contemporary philosophy; “there are two groups which make the most unique contribution of our time: existentialist philosophy [Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel and Jaspers] and the new metaphysics of being [Hartmann, Whitehead and Thomism]” (Ibid: 30). So, according to this view, contemporary philosophy is not characterized by any particular school but by a heterogeneous group of philosophies with little in common. It seems then that the last period in the history of Western has no founding fathers as such. To shed some light into this anomaly, we can start by noticing something that confuses our historians of philosophy, namely, how to classify Husserl and Heidegger. If we take Bochénski, they fall under the philosophy of essence and that of existence respectively. But, in Brehier’s opinion, they are better described as German realism. In contrast, for Copleston, Husserl embraced idealism and Heidegger founded the “metaphysics of Being”. Accordingly, there is not consensus on how to define their philosophy. Ironically, these great philosophers are the founders of the same world-hypothesis. And their outstanding importance is further overshadowed by the fact that they do not occupy a new chapter in their histories of philosophy. Indeed, they either share the chapter with other philosophers with whom they did not share the same thinking imagination or receive very small attention compared to the founders of modern philosophy. If we add Bréhier (1931) and Copleston (1963) together, for instance, our founders occupy only 11 pages of their histories from which only 2 are devoted to Heidegger! But more problematic is the treatment they received in those pages, however. For Brehier, “Husserl is first of all a mathematician and a logician” trying to construct a “system of pure logic”, and, according to Copleston, his Ideas I (1913) meant a “transition to idealism”. Accordingly, Husserl seems to be an anachronism given that the German idealism (Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel) flourished in early nineteenth century. What is interesting is that the realism-idealism distinction that Copleston assumes to make that claim is grounded on the modern world-hypothesis but applies no longer to contemporary philosophy. By now it should have become clear that what explains the opening of a new period in the history of Western philosophy is a reorientation towards a different fundamental question whose answer resulted in a new world-hypothesis. As with all fundamental questions in philosophy, contemporary philosophy also assumed a fact, that science is grounded somehow. So, if that was the case, how is the foundation of science possible? Well, the philosopher that actually asked that question was Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) in his Logical Investigations (1900). However, and


2  The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy

this was also different from other periods, the constitutive answer appeared later in his Ideas II which was completed in 1925 but remained unpublished until 1952. However, our co-founder, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) did have access to that manuscript before he published Being and Time (1927). We will not delay too much that constitutive answer at the root of the new “cosmology”, but before doing so we have to place it in relation to the human sciences given that all sciences must be grounded somehow.

References Aristotle. (350 BC) [1924]. Metaphysics. New York: Oxford University Press.. Augustine. (426 AD) [1913]. The city of god. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Bochénski, J.  M. (1947) [1956]. Contemporary European philosophy. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press. Bréhier, E. (1926–1932) [1965–1967]. History of philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Copleston, F. (1946–1975). History of philosophy. Westminster: The Newman Bookshop. Descartes, R. (1637) [1913]. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and of seeking truth in the sciences. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. Dilthey, W. (1883) [1989]. Introduction to the human sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gillispie, C. C (1960). Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hawkins, G. S. (1963). Stonehenge decoded. Nature, 200, 306–308. Hegel, G. W. F. (1805–1831) [1892–1896]. Lectures on the history of philosophy. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Heidegger, M. (1927) [2001]. Being and time. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Hoyle, F. (1966). Stonehenge: An eclipse prediction. Nature, 211, 454–456. Husserl, E. (1900) [2001]. Logical investigations. London: Routledge. Husserl, E. (1913) [1983]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: General introduction to a pure phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1925, 1952) [1989]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: studies in the phenomenology of constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Lévy-Bruhl, L. (1922). La Mentalité Primitive. Paris: Alcan. Malinowski, B, (1925) [1948]. Magic, science and religion. Boston: Beacon Press. Mannheim, K. (1923–1928) [1952]. Essays on the sociology of knowledge. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Nietzsche, F. (1872) [1923]. The birth of tragedy. London: George Allen & Unwin. Nietzsche, F. (1874) [1910]. Thoughts out of season, part 2, the use and abuse of history of life. Edinburgh: T.N. Foulis. Nietzsche, F. (1886) [1917]. Beyond good and evil. New York: The Modern Library Publishers. Nietzsche, F. (1888a) [1979]. The twilight of the idols. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Nietzsche, F. (1888b) [1911]. Ecces Homo. New York: The Macmillan Company. Plato. (370 BC) [1997]. Plato’s Parmenides. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Russell, B. (1945) [1946]. History of western philosophy. London: George Allen and Unwin. Russell, B., & Whitehead, A.  N. (1910–1913). Principia Mathematica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 3

The “Foundation” of the Human Sciences

3.1  Dilthey’s Demarcation of the Human Sciences We have to start this chapter with Dilthey who is generally credited for having distinguished the human sciences from the natural sciences in the late nineteenth century. This does not mean that the human sciences where born with him or that he made any scientific contribution. Rather than being remembered for having established the human sciences, he is known for providing its subject matter or, more precisely, the “delimitation of the human studies”. Before him, the domain of the human sciences had received several names: Hume (1739) called it that of “moral subjects” and referred to them collectively as “the science of man” and J. S. Mill (1843) as the “moral sciences”. Unlike his predecessors, Dilthey (1883) wanted to take distance from the concept of human being as rational nature, “a mere process of thought”, and argued for man as a “psychophysical life-unit” who is “the carrier and co-developer of this immense structure of socio-historical reality”. And thus he conceived “the sciences of individuals”, namely, psychology and anthropology, “as elements of socio-historical reality” whose study can be further divided into “the science of the cultural systems” (ethics, art, science) and “the science of the external organization of society” (law, economics, religion, and language). This was Dilthey’s original demarcation of the human sciences. But what is the subject matter common to all the human studies? Well, according to Dilthey, human scientists deal with a different type of fact when they study the human world, mental facts, and thus with a different type of experience, inner experiences. In particular: Man as a life-unit may be regarded from two points of view […] seen from within he is a systems of mental facts, but to the senses he is a physical whole. Introspection and perception are separate acts so we can never grasp what goes on in a man’s mind at the same time as we observe his body. (Ibid [1989]: 67)

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_3



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By grounding the human sciences on “psychological roots”, Dilthey thought he had provided “the epistemological foundation of the human sciences”. Unlike the natural sciences, the human sciences depend on the analysis of “the facts of consciousness given by inner experience”. In other words, he was postulating a division between outer and inner experiences justifying the distinction between natural and human sciences. But did he achieve his purpose of clarifying the true subject matter of the human sciences, or has he confused matters even more? Well, he himself was never fully satisfied with his original delimitation of the human sciences, so he would seek to improve his proposal further. And that would mean modifying slightly his position in 1910, after coming in contact with Husserl, to avoid the criticism of “psychologism”. Instead of talking about natural and mental facts, he would now refine the distinction between physical experiences, such as “sensations, impressions, and images”, and mental experiences, such as “ideas, valuations, and purposes”, by introducing the concept of “understanding” to describe the “inner side” which was not to be confused with psychologism. To argue his case, Dilthey (1910) used the example of the interpretation of the spirit of the law whose “understanding of this spirit is not psychological insight”. Likewise, “literary history and criticism are only concerned with what the pattern of words refer to, not – and this is decisive – with the processes in the poet’s mind but with a structure created by these processes” (Ibid [1976]: 174–175). After coming up with the concept of “understanding”, he was now reassured that he had finally discovered the true subject matter of the human sciences which “is not impressions as they are experienced, but objects created by cognition”. The human phenomena investigated by the human sciences were “the objectivations of life in the external world” (Ibid: 192). These were creations of the mind that we could experience in the external world by means of understanding “which penetrates the observable facts of human history to reach what is not accessible to the senses”. Despite revisiting his original position, Dilthey’s postulation of “the movement of understanding from the external to the internal” (Ibid: 172) continued to reinforce the inner-outer split in order to distinguish the human sciences from the natural sciences. My short review of Dilthey’s attempts to clarify the domain of the human sciences, however, suggests that his philosophical contribution was more limited than others believe, particularly, the founding fathers of the present age. Husserl (1925, 1952), for instance, argued that “Dilthey recognized the essential distinction”, Nature and Spirit, “but he did not penetrate through to the decisive formulations of the problems and to methodologically certain solutions” [Ibid [1989]: 181). Basically, he was trying to find the solution in a “psychophysical psychology” which cannot “serve as the foundation of the human sciences” (1910–1911 [1965]:129). Why? Because in assuming that man is a “psychophysical life-unit”, he was conceiving “man as nature”. Husserl was right; Dilthey (1883) did so explicitly when claiming that “man, because of his position in the causal system of nature, is conditioned by it a twofold respect”, that is, nature “conditions social-historical reality” and “the purposes of the human world have their repercussions on nature” (Ibid [1989]: 69). Indeed, by conceiving “man as nature”, he was assuming what Husserl (1925, 1952) termed as the “naturalistic attitude” of the subject, an act of

3.2  The Birth of the Last World-Hypothesis


consciousness in which “Nature is there for the theoretical subject” (Ibid [1989]: 4). But to investigate “man as spiritually real and as member of the spiritual world (as Object of the human sciences)”, Dilthey required a radically different attitude, the “personalistic attitude” (Ibid: 150). On the other hand, Heidegger (1925) had a better opinion of Dilthey, the man who had fought against the positivistic “desire to conceive of the mind as a product of nature […] disassociating himself from the specific conception of psychology as a natural science” (Ibid [2002]: 152–56). Furthermore, “Dilthey emphasised that the fundamental character of life is historical being. But he merely left it at that and neglected to ask what historical being is” (Ibid: 173). Similar to what Husserl had said, he was missing “the fundamental attitude of phenomenological research” (Ibid: 159–60). In summary, both founding fathers saw in Dilthey someone willing to question the positivistic reduction of man to Nature but could go very far without phenomenology. However, Heidegger went further in recognizing his “struggle for a historical worldview” which depended on discovering “the essence of historical being”. It seems that they both saw in Dilthey someone unsatisfied with the way the human being fitted “the mechanistic conception of nature” but also someone who could not find the way forward because it required a change in our way of thinking, the phenomenological attitude. But, in my opinion, Dilthey’s contribution is in fact what he had failed to achieve, the foundation of the human sciences on a world-hypothesis defined by the Subject-Object dualism, the same psychophysical dualism underlying his concept of human being. Indeed, the foundation of science depended on a different cosmology.

3.2  The Birth of the Last World-Hypothesis In turning to the founding fathers of the present “cosmology”, we see something unusual in the history of Western philosophy; these philosophers are now aware that they are working in the domain of world-hypothesis. In the case of Husserl (1910–1911), he was a bit sceptical at first because he did not want to be associated with historicism. “Historicism takes its position in the factual sphere of the empirical life of the spirit […] I look upon historicism as an epistemological mistake that […] must be unceremoniously rejected as was naturalism” (Ibid [1965]:122). “Naturalists and historicists fight about worldview, and yet both are at work on different sides to misinterpret ideas as facts […] The superstition of the fact is common to them all” (Ibid: 141). However, in 1917, about the same time he was accomplishing Ideas II, he wrote a letter saying the following: Duty demands that I bring to completion and to publication my labors of many years, especially since they provide the scientific foundations for a reconciliation between the naturalistic world-view that dominated the epoch just expired and the teleological world-view. But the teleological world-view is the definitively true one. (Letter to Albrecht, 2 August 1917)

A couple of year later, Heidegger (1919) gave a lecture course at the University of Freiburg entitled “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldview” in which


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he saw “worldview as the task of philosophy”, “every great philosophy realizes itself in a worldview”, “philosophy and worldview mean essentially the same thing, but worldview brings the nature of the task of philosophy more clearly to expression” (Ibid [2000]: 7). And a decade after bringing forth the next world-­hypothesis in 1927, he was the first philosopher to realize the true vocation of philosophy: World stands here as the designation of the existent as a whole. The name is not limited to the cosmos, to nature. History also is part of the world. But even nature and history, as they interpenetrate and affect one another, do not exhaust the world. In this term the foundation of the world is included, regardless of how its relation to the world is conceived. (1938 [1976]: 350)

However, he was not describing world-hypothesis in general but the particular world-hypothesis he had erected by working together with Husserl and adding something new, the temporal dimension of the human world: historicity. It is now time to introduce the cultural world which resulted from answering the fundamental question of how is the foundation of science possible. The beginning of this new period also shows something unusual; Husserl is the first founder of a world-­ hypothesis who is aware of the need to address a different philosophical question which can be found in his first major work, the Logical Investigations (1900). Indeed, after acknowledging that “scientific knowledge, is as such, grounded knowledge”, he posed the following question: “We now raise an important question as to the ‘conditions of possibility of science in general’” (Ibid [2001]: 149). As we said earlier, that book did not offer the constitutive answer that came with Ideas II (1925, 1952), but argued for a “pure logic” conceived as a “science of sciences”, that is, “a new, purely theoretical science, the all-important foundation for any technology of scientific knowledge” (Ibid: 14), though Husserl did prepare the ground, however, by introducing the idea of “ideal meanings” corresponding to the realm of pure logic because this was the logical space he needed to found a new world-hypothesis. “If we take the trouble to detach the ideal essence of meanings from their psychological and grammatical connections […] we are already within the domain of pure logic” (Ibid: 224). Husserl was postulating a sphere of meaning “beyond” our psychophysical nature, and as such it could ground all “mental experiences” though it was merely a logical ground. But what if that new region of being never before exhibited suggested an altogether different form of experience? This is, in fact, the logical turn he took in Ideas I (1913) where he came up with a new concept of experience to consolidate a new logical space for phenomenology as “rigorous science”. But his would not be an easy task given that there were only two available options within the modern world-hypothesis, namely, the two forms of experience which Dilthey had tried to come to terms with, inner and outer experiences. So the concept of experience he was going to introduce could easily be confused with inner experience which he disliked because it meant embracing psychologism. Fortunately, Husserl found the way forward by distinguishing phenomenological from psychological experience. As he wrote in the Foreword to the second edition of the Logical Investigations (1913):

3.2  The Birth of the Last World-Hypothesis


The psychological description performed in inner experience appears to be equated to the description of external events of nature performed in external experience, but it is, on the other hand opposed to phenomenological description. […] [which deals] neither with lived experiences nor classes of lived experiences of empirical persons. (Ibid [2001]: 6)

Pure logic was in the process of being replaced or, better, absorbed by “transcendental phenomenology” as the true science of sciences that could surpass psychologism and all naturalism in general. That phenomenology was to psychology what pure mathematics was to natural science, its foundation. Despite this promising new venture, Ideas I (1913) stopped short of providing the grounds to all science in general which, of course, had to include the humanistic sciences in addition to the natural sciences. At that time, phenomenology was described as the “science of essences”, and that is why Bochénski described Husserl’s philosophy as the “philosophy of essence”. But it was also the moment in which he distinguished between two types of phenomena, the real and the unreal, by making use of the “transcendental reduction” as a process of purifying the “concrete experience” given in our “ordinary experience” to arrive at the “pure essence” exemplifying a “particular type”. Indeed, “it does not matter whether anything of the sort has ever been given in actual experience or not” (Ibid [1983]: 11). The phenomena of which he was talking about were no longer the objects of “ordinary experience”, that is, the facts of “natural-scientific experiencing” such as external or psychic experiences. No, these are data of the “science of facts” or “science of realities”, but phenomenology is much more fundamental as it implies a new type of experience that is already implicit when we experience what is “factually existing spatiotemporary”. If we stop at “matter of fact”, all we can hope for is a “science of the realities” which includes the sciences of material and of psychophysical nature, that is, natural science, but never a science of essences or phenomenology which depends on seeing “intentional objects”, that is, objects that signify something as essential realities. In fact, “all real unities are ‘unities of sense’. Unities of sense presuppose […] a sense-­bestowing consciousness” (Ibid: 128–29). This is how Husserl believed to have surpassed psychologism by going beyond “mental experience” to reach what is constitutive of them, the “pure experiences” of a “transcendental consciousness”. Furthermore, according to him, that method of purifying “concrete experiences” shows us that there is an independently existing “sphere of being of absolute origins” (Ibid: 129). If so, the seeing of essence must be independent from the observation of facts, and thus experiential science must depend on transcendental phenomenology for its ground because it provides a more fundamental kind of experience already presupposed in ordinary experience. Indeed: The realm of transcendental consciousness as the realm of what is, in a determined sense, “absolute” being, has been provided us by the phenomenological reduction. It is the primal category of all being (or, in our terminology, the primal region), the one in which all other regions of being are rooted, according to their essence, they are relative and on which they are therefore all essentially dependent. (Ibid: 171)


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In other words, Husserl had made a transition from a “pure logic” that grounded “psychology” to a “transcendental phenomenology” that could now ground the natural sciences, that is, physics and psychology, but also the “cultural sciences”. Accordingly, there is a “phenomenology of Nature” as well as a “phenomenology of man” and a “phenomenology of the social mind, of social formations, cultural products, etc.” (Ibid: 172). However, what he was about to accomplish, the introduction of a new dualism defining the next world-hypothesis, was only hinted at in Ideas I (1913) but had to be postponed until Ideas II (1925, 1952). The realm of phenomenology is now showing us that there are different types of essences belonging to the different spheres of being. However, without knowing, scientists have been restricting themselves to the sphere of Nature and to its natural objects because their consciousness was only experiencing the world under the “naturalistic attitude”. Accordingly, the world of the natural scientist is a spatial world relative to all psychophysical subjects who experience it as an “intersubjective reality”. “Subjects share a common world of things” because they share the same type of body and therefore any subject “must experience the very same things” (Ibid: 91, 87). What they experience here is the sphere of “Nature objects” resulting from the theoretical acts of consciousness, but there are other spheres of intentional objects that are accessible to those subjects who are able to adopt a different attitude, “personalistic attitude”, namely, the “Culture objects”. This switch in the mode of experiencing objects is depicted by Husserl as a change from the “empirical Ego” to the “personal Ego”. “We are in this attitude when we consider things surrounding us precisely as our surrounding and not as ‘Objective’ nature, the way it is for natural science” (Ibid: 192). In fact, it is the most fundamental one given that the naturalistic attitude is subordinated to and “presupposes the personalistic attitude”. Indeed, we have now reached the foundation of the world because Nature is a correlate of Spirit or social subjectivity. “The spiritual world is a world of intersubjective community” which absorbs “the totality of ‘Objectivities’ – the ideal as well – which ‘confronts’ the person (each of the persons communicating with the others)” (Ibid: 203). Those objectivities constitute the sphere of logic and mathematics which do not change, but, in contrast, our common “surrounding world” is “always in the process of becoming, constantly producing itself by means of transformations of sense and ever new formations of sense” (Ibid: 196). And what changes is the meaning of the intentional objects “constituted through communication”. The current world-hypothesis as a “world of intersubjectively constituted objectivities” subject to changes of meaning was now prepared for our next co-founder to take over. From studying Husserl’s new cosmology in Ideas II (1925), Heidegger understood that there was something missing which was fundamental to define the human world. Indeed, deep down, the cultural world of social objectivities is temporally constituted. This was a radical claim questioning the essence of the modern world-hypothesis as a spatially constituted world of extended bodies. For Heidegger, the world is founded on temporality because that is the essence of the human world or Dasein. In particular, human beings live in a historically constituted world. As he wrote in Wilhelm Dilthey’s Research and the Struggle for a Historical Worldview (1925), “Human life does not happen in time but rather is time itself” (Ibid [2002]:

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169). What was most surprising of this development was that it introduced a new concept of time that would ground the biological sciences even though Heidegger was only interested in the question of the constitution of Dasein. Ironically, the region of life did not quite fit within Husserl’s realm of Nature which he divided into material and psychophysical nature and thus left no room for the biological world. Furthermore, Heidegger (1927) may have even been aware of the potential of his new concept of Being for biology. “In biology there is an awakening tendency to inquire beyond the definitions which mechanism and vitalism have given for ‘life’ and ‘organism’, and to define anew the kind of Being which belongs to the living as such” (Ibid [2001]: 30). To put it differently, Husserl’s foundation of the world could not have been able to ground biology without the world being constituted by time as primordial temporality or origin-past. Despite his original revisiting of the new cosmology, Heidegger still assumed that is was founded on social subjectivity or “they-self” who bestow the world with meaning. “Meaning is an existentiale of Dasein, not a property attaching to entities, lying ‘behind’ them, or floating somewhere as an ‘intermediate’ domain” (Ibid: 193). And this meant that the world of Dasein “is dominated by the way things are publicly interpreted” (Ibid: 264). That is, the cultural world is temporally constituted by the prevalent objective meanings established by social subjectivity. In summary, we can say that the current world-­ hypothesis resulted from the working together of Husserl and Heidegger who are to be credited with being the founding fathers of the present period in the history of Western philosophy. How is it possible to have two founders of a world-hypothesis? Well, in the early 1925, Husserl sent Heidegger a copy of the final draft of Ideas II based mainly on the redactions of Edith Stein in 1917–1918, though he revised the section on “The Constitution of the Spiritual World” during the period in which Heidegger was his assistant and then incorporated it in the draft prepared by Ludwig Landgrebe in 1924. And, thus, though the new world-hypothesis was put into paper earlier, contemporary philosophy was not realized until Heidegger published Being and Time (1927). Furthermore, this foundational event in the history of Western philosophy sheds some light into the exact periodization of the modern world-hypothesis whose crisis, as we now know, originated with Nietzsche (1844–1900). Indeed, as a destiny, this philosopher marked the beginning of the end but not the end itself which corresponds to Max Scheler (1874–1928), the last modern philosopher. But before we justify our claim, how do our historians of philosophy classify him? Well, Brehier, Bochenski, and Copleston agree that he belongs to Husserl’s school because he used the phenomenological method in the field of ethics. The fact that his investigation, Formalism in Ethics (1913/1916), was published in the journal founded by Husserl in 1912 lends some support to that view. Therefore, he has been described in the same way as our founder, namely, “Realism in Germany” and the “philosophy of essence”. Having said that, our authorities are of the opinion that Scheler was more of an original thinker than a faithful disciple. As to Scheler himself, he expressed his debt to Husserl in the following way:


3  The “Foundation” of the Human Sciences I owe to the significant works of Edmund Husserl the methodological consciousness of the unity and sense of the phenomenological attitude, which binds together the co-editors of the Jahrbuch, men who otherwise vastly differ both in worldview and on philosophical matters. (Ibid: Preface)

In case of Husserl, though he was faithful to the inherited legacy of the modern world-hypothesis and originally embraced Descartes’ thinking subject, that psychophysical unity was eventually surpassed by the postulation of a pure consciousness independent of Nature. In addition, since he wanted to ground all science in general, the acts of consciousness were primary conceived as “acts of thinking” or “cogitations” of the transcendental Ego in which it apprehended intentional objects. However, if we analyse Scheler’s (1913/1916) concept of consciousness, it is much closer to the modern subject in the sense that the acts of thinking, together with those of “feeling, loving, hating” in which we experience values, are relative to “the person [as] the concrete and essential unity of being of acts of different essences” (Ibid: 383). In particular, “the personal act-centre [is] an objective unity of body and ego […] a piece of nature” (Ibid: 477–478). Thus, the person is a psychophysical unity rather than a “transcendental consciousness”. So Scheler may have embraced “the rise of the phenomenology” but not the emerging world-hypothesis. We will say more about Scheler when we introduce the different concepts of human system in the prehistory of human science and the history of ethical science given that he contributed to the crisis of the concept of man corresponding to the modern world-­ hypothesis but also to the investigation of the domain of moral values. I believe we can now distinguish the previous period in the history of Western philosophy that ended with Scheler, the last modern philosopher, from the present period that began with Husserl-Heidegger, the fathers of contemporary philosophy. This would have not been possible without understanding what opened each period, namely, a different fundamental question whose philosophical answer would result in a new world-hypothesis. We can now summarize our historical findings (Table 3.1). Our prevailing world-hypothesis resulted from answering the question of the foundation of science in general which includes, of course, the foundation of the human sciences with which we started the present chapter. So what remains to be done before we introduce a possible new world-hypothesis is to ask ourselves what was Husserl’s actual contribution to the human sciences. For starters, we could say that he opened up a new sphere of being no reducible to Nature hosting at first “ideal Table 3.1  Fundamental questions and Western world-hypotheses Periods Antique

Questions How is something rather than nothing possible? Medieval How is the structure of everything possible? Modern How is knowledge possible? Contemporary How is the foundation of science possible?

Founders Plato Augustine of Hippo Descartes Husserl-­ Heidegger

World-­ hypotheses Sensible world Created world Material world Cultural world

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meanings” in the realm of pure logic and finally “intentional objects” in that of Spirit, namely, “the world of social Objectivities” as correlates of “social subjectivity”. Those social objectivities in the case of the human sciences correspond to the “Objects of culture” as opposed to the “Nature objects” studied by the natural sciences. However, they are both intentional objects with “human significance” in as much as they both belong to the cultural world. The difference between them is that, strictly speaking, only the cultural objects constitute the human world as such because they are the correlates of the normal human community. In order to distinguish the human world from the all-encompassing spiritual world, which also includes the “world of science”, Husserl will later refer to it as the “life-world” in The Crisis of European Sciences (1936), his last unfinished work. Furthermore, the world of science is not independent from the life-world for “every practical world, every science, presupposes the life-world, as purposeful structures they are contrasted with the life-world” (Ibid [1970]: 382). Thus, unlike the natural world, the human world does not seem to be part of the world studied by science but rather the ground of the “world of science” itself. And Husserl is quite specific on this point: “natural science is a product of the spirit” (Ibid: 297). Having said this, in Ideas II (1925, 1952), he had talked about the possibility of a “theory of the person” and a “theory of society” and of an “intentional relation” as opposed to a “real relation”. “Natural science investigates reality (substantiality and causality) in the appearing world. Human science investigates personal individuality and personal causality, the causality of freedom and motivation” (Ibid [1989]: 401). So what is the difference between both forms of causality, intentional and real? The intentional relation “suffers nothing through the non-actuality of the Object”, whereas the “real relation” collapses if the thing does not exist; the intentional relation, however, remains” (Ibid: 227). What Husserl was trying to say is that, unlike the natural world, the human world can be caused by things that are unreal such as “intentional objects of personal consciousness”. Thus it is from the things which […] are “meant” as actually existing that “stimuli” arise (Ibid: 199). Indeed, those intentional objects that motivate our actions can be unreal phenomena not experienced in reality but that we can see in our imagination such as “mere phantasy-things of art”. And, in this sense, I believe that Husserl’s contribution to human science is realizing that we cannot reduce the human world to actuality and opening the door to possibility. However, in his formulation, it also meant decoupling possibility from actuality by postulating a spiritual world independent from the natural world as two parallel “realities”. Indeed, “each time the Object does exist a real relation runs ‘parallel’ to the intentional relation” (Ibid: 227). This is the main reason why Husserl could not provide the foundation of human science because the human world is not a self-sufficient reality existing on its own. In fact, he developed the full consequences of his answer in The Crisis of European Sciences (1936). “The spirit, and indeed only the spirit, exists in itself and for itself, is self-sufficient” (Ibid [1970]: 297). In addition, though not strictly a contribution to human science per se, Husserl would influence many spheres of knowledge. The first impact was on the so-called sociology of knowledge, particularly on the work of Karl Mannheim (1893–1947)


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who conceived a “worldview” as defined by different “fields of meaning” some of which are theoretical and others are “a-theoretical and a-logical” such as art, religion, or ethics. In doing so, Mannheim (1923) was extending Husserl’s (1900) “ideal meanings” belonging to the sphere of pure logic to the whole domain of human culture. Indeed, “all objectifications of culture are considered as vehicles of […] non-psychological ‘meaning’ of which Husserl had given a systematic account in the logical and theoretical sphere” (Ibid [1952]: 41). A couple of years later, Mannheim (1925) embraced the historicist idea of the evolution by claiming that the “historic-cultural sciences” experience “an intrinsically necessary change of meaning”, not seen in “scientific-technological thought” (Ibid: 170). The new world-­ hypothesis was now entering the sphere of the history of ideas as a cultural product of “social strata”, “group[s] of people belonging to a certain social unit and sharing a certain ‘world postulate’” (Ibid: 186). Social strata compete for a “change of meaning” in the prevailing worldview. In short, historic-cultural knowledge is socially constituted by “a conflict of opposed world-postulates”. As he wrote in 1928: from the point of view of the social sciences, every historical, ideological, sociological piece of knowledge (even should it prove to the Absolute Truth itself), is clearly rooted in an carried by the desire for power and recognition of particular social groups who want to make their interpretation of the world the universal one. (Ibid: 196–97)

By that time, Mannheim had already read the work of the other founding father: “Heidegger calls [the ‘they-self] this collective subject who supplies us with the prevailing public interpretation of reality” (Ibid: 197). But the impact of the Husserl-­ Heidegger world-hypothesis did not end in the sociology of knowledge as it also advanced into the field of the history of science through Alexander Koyré (1892–1964), who is said to have read Husserl’s Logical Investigations (1900) in prison in Russia before emigrating to Germany to attend the founders’ lectures on pure phenomenology. We can also trace the influence of the late Husserl in Koyré’s major work, Galileo Studies (1939), in which we find a particular interpretation of Galileo already present in The Crisis of European Sciences (1936). According to Husserl, Galileo carried out the “mathematization of nature” by substituting the platonic “world of idealities for the only real world […] our everyday life-world”, the “meaning-fundament of natural science”. “This substitution was promptly passed on to his successors, the physicists of all the succeeding centuries” (Ibid: 48–49). This was the same idea that shaped Koyré’s (1943) new interpretation of the origin of the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century made possible by Galileo who used the “geometrical language” to interpret “the book of nature”. “The choice of language, the decision to employ it, could not be determined by experience which its use was to make possible” (Ibid: 403). In particular, as Koyré (1953) claimed: The great revolutions of twentieth century science, as well as those of the nineteenth and seventeenth […] are, fundamentally, theoretical revolutions of which the result was not a more perfect correlation of “facts of experience”, but, in my view, a new concept of the reality underlying these “facts”. (Ibid: 22)

3.2  The Birth of the Last World-Hypothesis


Exactly, Koyré was interpreting scientific revolutions as changes of “ideal meanings” making possible the “experimental aspect” of science. However, according to Husserl, this was impossible because the sphere of “ideal objectivity” represented by the “world of science” could not change its meaning. “Transformations of sense and ever new formations of sense” were only possible in the “life-world”, the human world. But we also saw with Heidegger (1927) that the world in its entirety is “publicly interpreted” by the “they-self” and thus there is no reason to assume that some of its aspects are immune to the change of meaning. Indeed, Koyré was familiar with the work of our co-founder and even wrote an article on The Philosophical Evolution of Martin Heidegger (1946). Furthermore, it was through him that the Husserl-Heidegger world-hypothesis eventually reached the work of another historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, who is famous for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) where he acknowledges his debt to Koyré (1939) and also in his The Essential Tension (1977). “Like my own understanding of the transformations of early modern science, Butterfield’s was greatly influenced by the writings of Alexander Koyré” (Ibid: xiii). And in a short piece devoted to Koyré’s contribution to the history of science, Kuhn (1970) claims that “Koyré was responsible for the first stage of the historiographical revolution” though did little for the second stage which, “still in embryo, occurs among those who would assimilate history of science to the model provided by social and cultural history” (Ibid: 67). Ironically, though Kuhn was referring to his own contribution to the field, he was not aware that that idea was at the core of Husserl’s answer to the question of the foundation of science: the world of science is grounded on social subjectivity. Maybe Kuhn’s (1962) originality was to have worked out the epistemological relativism behind it given that “paradigms”, the conceptual frameworks held by scientific communities, are mutually “incommensurable ways of seeing the world and of practicing science in it” (Ibid [1996]: 4). On the other hand, Husserl (1931) had already anticipated the issue of different social subjectivities having a different correlate “world of social objectivities”, but he denied that possibility as “pure absurdity”. “There can exist only a single community of monads, the community of all co-existing monads. Hence the can exist only one Objective world” (Ibid [1960]: 140). We could also discuss the influence of Husserl on Schütz’s (1932) interpretive sociology and of Heidegger on Gadamer’s (1960) hermeneutics. However, the artificial debate on the methodology of the so-called social sciences as opposed to that of the natural sciences is not relevant to the purpose of this book. In fact, as we will discover in the next chapter, the logic of scientific discovery is the same for all science and comes from answering the third fundamental question of how is knowledge possible. Having said this, the influence of our founders did not end here either as it also entered the ill-defined the social sciences and the humanities though “scientists” were not even aware of it. Geertz (1973), for instance, mentions that “Parsons, following not only Weber but a line of thought stretching back at least to Vico, has elaborated a concept of culture as a system of symbols by which man confers significance upon his own experience” (Ibid: 250). In contrast, for Alexander (1987) “cultural sociology” was an alternative to Parsons. “It can be seen as a revival of the ancient ‘hermeneutical’ tradition” (Ibid: 285) referring to Dilthey, Ricoeur,


3  The “Foundation” of the Human Sciences

Table 3.2  The introduction of Husserl-Heidegger world-hypothesis Fields Sociology of knowledge History of natural science Anthropology Jurisprudence Sociology Psychology History

Books Mannheim’s Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (1923–1928) Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures (1973) Dworkin’s Law’s Empire (1986) Alexander’s Twenty Lectures (1987) Brunner’s Acts of Meaning (1990) Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind (2014)

and Geertz. Likewise, according to Dworkin (1986), the philosophical roots of “legal interpretivism” go back to Dilthey’s concept of “understanding” culminating in Gadamer (1960) and Habermas (1981) who changed the new direction of the debate shaping his “constructive interpretation” of law. In the case of Brunner (1990), Dilthey (1911) is credited with inspiring “cultural psychology” concerned with “the nature and cultural shaping of meaning-making, and the central place it plays in human action” (Ibid: xii, 23). Lastly, according to Harari (2014), “Homo sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language” due to a genetic mutation that happened 70,000  years ago (Ibid: 22). Do we need further evidence of the prevailing influence of the present world-hypothesis on “scientists”? The following table (Table 3.2) is just a sample of the overall impact on different spheres of knowledge though, as we will see in Chap. 6, economics, ethics, and aesthetics were not immune to that new way of thinking.

References Alexander, J.  C. (1987). Twenty lectures: Sociological theory since World War II. New  York: Columbia University Press. Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Dilthey, W. (1883) [1989]. Introduction to the human sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dilthey, W. (1910) [1976]. W. Dilthey selected writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dilthey, W. (1911) [1977]. Descriptive Psychology and Historical Understanding. The Hague: Nijhoff. Dworkin, R. (1986). Law’s empire. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Gadamer, H. (1960). Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. Habermas, J. (1981). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Francfort: Suhrcamp. Harari, Y. N. (2014). Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. London: Harvill Secker. Heidegger, M. (1919). [2000]. The idea of philosophy and the problem of worldview. In M. Heidegger (Ed.), (2000) Towards the definition of philosophy. London/New Brumswick: The Athlone Press.



Heidegger, M. (1925). [2002]. Wilhelm Dilthey’s research and the struggle for a historical worldview. In M. Heidegger (Ed.), (2000) Supplements: From the earliest essays to being and time and beyond. New York: State University of New York Press. Heidegger M (1927) [2001]. Being and time. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Heidegger, M. (1938) [1976]. The age of worldview. Boundary 2, 4(2):340–355. Hume, D. (1739) [2000]. A treatise of human nature. New York: Oxford University Press. Husserl, E. (1900) [2001]. Logical investigations. London: Routledge. Husserl, E. (1910–1911) [1965]. Philosophy as rigorous science. New York: Harper Torchbooks. Husserl, E. (1913) [1983]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: General introduction to a pure phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1917). Letter to Albrecht. In K. Schuhmann (Ed.), (1977) Husserl-Chronik: Denk- und Lebensweg Edmund Husserls, Husserliana Dokumente (Vol. 1). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Husserl, E. (1925, 1952) [1989]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: Studies in the phenomenology of constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Husserl, E. (1931) [1960]. Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1936) [1970]. The crisis of the European Sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Koyré, A. (1939). Études Galiléennes. Paris: Hermann. Koyré, A. (1943). Galileo and Plato. Journal of the History of Ideas, 4(4), 400–428. Koyré, A. (1946). L'evolution philosophique de Martin Heidegger. Critique, 1, 73–82, 161–183. Koyré, A. (1953). An experiment in measurement. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 97, 222–237. Kuhn, T. (1962). [1996]. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press. Kuhn, T. (1970). Alexandre Koyré & the history of science. Encounters, 34, 67–69. Kuhn, T. (1977). The essential tension. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press. Mannheim, K. (1923–1928) [1952]. Essays on the sociology of knowledge. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Mill, J.  S. (1843) [1882]. A system of logic, ratiocinative and inductive. New  York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. Scheler, M. (1913/1916) [1973]. Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values. A new attempt towards the foundation of an ethical personalism. Evaston: Northwestern University Press. Schütz, A. (1932). Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt: eine Einleitung in die verstehende Soziologie. Wien: J. Springer.

Chapter 4

The Foundation of Utopics

4.1  The Death of Western Philosophy So as not to leave any loose ends, I believe we have to start this chapter with what came after the founding fathers of contemporary philosophy to understand our present situation. We have seen that Scheler was the last modern philosopher to put an end to the modern world-hypothesis after Nietzsche had begun its crisis. But did our contemporary world suffer a similar crisis that suggests the end of the present era? Before claiming the fate of the last Western “cosmology”, I should say that contemporary philosophy did not end with the founding fathers. Instead, there were two great philosophers who continued doing philosophy after Husserl and Heidegger, namely, Nicolai Hartmann (1882–1950) and Herman Dooyeweerd (1894–1977), just like Immanuel Kant (1781/1787) had done in the case of the modern world-­ hypothesis. Kant agreed with Descartes that the material world was constituted by extended bodies in reciprocal interaction, but there was something missing to explain the change of bodies in space. All possible experience happens in time which is where everything takes place. In other words, it is only by means of the inner sense, time, that we can experience changes in the spatial world. Likewise, Dooyeweerd (1935–1936) and Hartmann (1940) would also develop the new cosmology by extending Heidegger’s temporality of the human world to the entire universe. This new concept of time was absent from Husserl’s original cosmology in which space and time were synchronized, spatial Nature with “time consciousness”, because our perception of the spatial world was mediated by the body constitutive of psychophysical nature. Accordingly, time was a “lived experience” of the transcendental ego (pure consciousness) conditioned by an animal constitution (mind-body unity). This is when Heidegger’s originality was unleashed arguing that the human world is temporal because temporality is the being of Dasein, the human world. Temporality is so fundamental to the foundation of the world that spatiality is grounded on Dasein’s primordial temporality, and, therefore, the being of the © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_4



4  The Foundation of Utopics

human world defines the being of the rest of the universe. This, of course, would not be accepted by Hartmann (1940) because he considered that time was so fundamental that is permeated the entire real world, from the physical to the human world, whereas space was only present in the natural world. In short, time was more fundamental that space because it was more constitutive of the universe. In the case of Dooyeweerd (1935–1936), space was reduced to the minimal expression because it only represented one of the multiple “modalities of cosmic meaning” constituting one single aspect of the temporal cosmos. Moreover, according to him, time must not be “identified with one of its modal aspects or modalities of meaning”, as Heidegger had done by reducing it to the historical aspect. Indeed, Dooyeweerd was the most radical, “the idea of cosmic time constitutes the basis of the philosophical theory of reality in this book. By virtue of its integral character it may be called new” (Ibid [2013]: 28). Therefore, time is the foundation of the cosmos. Just like Husserl and Heidegger have to be credited with being the fathers of the current world-hypothesis, Hartmann and Dooyeweerd are the last contemporary philosophers because, even though Hartmann (1940) produced the last contribution to the new “cosmology”, Dooyeweerd died later. Having said this, there is another philosopher, Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), who did not contribute to its further development but can be credited with the fate of Western philosophy in as much as he precipitated the end of Western world-hypothesis altogether. But how could it end just like that if doing philosophy had enjoyed such a long history? Well, in An Essay of Man (1944), Cassirer argued for something that would put an end to that vocation, the separation of “anthropology” from “cosmology”, that is, of the human world from the universe. Despite giving the final blow to Western philosophy, he did provide a concept of human system in keeping with the current world-hypothesis, the symbolic animal, whose discussion will close the next chapter on the prehistory of human science. This means that there has been no philosophy after the publication of Hartmann’s The Structure of the Real World (1940)? Indeed, contemporary philosophy ended when its corresponding concept of human system separated from its source, the last Western world-hypothesis born with the publication of Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927). Do I mean what I say, is Western philosophy really dead? If we define philosophy as world-hypothesis development, yes. We could even argue that the consequence of the death of Western philosophy was the existential movement that emerged at the end of the Second World War with Sartre’s Existentialism Is a Humanism (1946) though its forerunner is said to be Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855). After that, of course, we have plenty of so-called philosophies such as the analytical philosophy led by Quine (1908–2000) and whose beginnings are found in Frege (1848–1925), the Frankfurt school still alive in Habermas (1929-) as a heir of the Marxist tradition and we even hear about something called Postmodernism that presumably started with Nietzsche (1844–1900). This is our philosophical panorama in the twenty-first century, an unrelated group of philosophies whose credited fathers belong to the nineteenth century. To me this can only mean that philosophy’s genuine vocation, namely, the development of worldhypothesis, finished 80 years ago and what remains today is only a way of thinking that has forgotten its original roots. Are these not signs of the death of Western

4.1  The Death of Western Philosophy


philosophy? To put it differently, have any of these four contemporary movements contributed anything to the progress of science? Well, in contrast to the other philosophies, only analytical philosophy showed sympathy towards science. So much sympathy, in fact, that it even denied a different separate domain of knowledge for philosophy claiming that its vocation is to serve science. In particular, the sole task of philosophy is the conceptual analysis within the framework of science: “Philosophy of science is philosophy enough” (Quine 1953: 446). As the story goes, the origins of analytical philosophy can be traced back to Frege’s (1893–1903) and Russell’s (1910–1913) attempts to reduce mathematics to logic, the so-called logicism program, and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), which would influence the father of the so-­called Vienna Circle, Moritz Schick (1882–1936). The Vienna Circle was a group of philosophers and scientists who met regularly from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s, resulting in a philosophical movement called logical empiricism. Among them, there was a philosopher who attended both Frege’s lectures and the Vienna Circle and who could certainly be regarded as the father of analytical philosophy, Rudolf Carnap (189–1970). However, what interests us most here is his shift from syntax to semantics in the analysis of language because of its influence on Quine, Hanson, and Kuhn. As Carnap tells us in his autobiography: Language analysis, in our view the most important tool of philosophy, was first systematized in the form of logical syntax; but this method studies only the forms of the expressions, not their meanings. An important step in the development of language analysis consisted in the supplementation of syntax by semantics. (1963 [1997]: 59–61)

This turn from syntax to semantics happened in the 1940s, but the implication for the analysis of scientific language would have to wait until his Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology (1950) was published. Analytical philosophers are very fond of clarifying the terms and distinctions they use in order to frame the discussion before they go into the problem itself. In this case, Carnap’s (1950) problem was the existence of abstract entities such as the spatiotemporal coordinate system. Was this a real entity? No, “physical space and physical time are pseudo-questions” (Ibid: 10). However, there is a sense in which abstract entities, such as space-time points that belong to the former linguistic framework, can be said to exist within that framework. If instead of the space-time coordinate we speak of the system of things, extended things can also be said to be real within the thing language but not the world of things itself. According to Carnap, we have to distinguish between two different questions here, internal questions of existence “within the framework” and the external questions of “the reality of the system of entities as a whole” which is problematic because it is not an ontological statement. Thus, ontology then is reduced to the internal question of to what entities are said to exist within a linguistic framework, that is, semantic meaning. Of course, “the answers may be found either by purely logical methods or by empirical methods, depending upon whether the framework is a logical or a factual one” (Ibid: 3). Furthermore, “the acceptance or rejection of abstract linguistic forms, just as the


4  The Foundation of Utopics

acceptance or rejection of any other linguistic form in any branch of science, will finally be decided by their efficiency as instruments” (Ibid: 22). Thus, the introduction of new abstract entities within a linguistic framework has to render results, such as empirical predictions, for instance. In so doing, however, Carnap was assuming that entities only exist as semantically meaningful entities within a linguistic framework. This could seem plausible in the case of a logical system that defines certain deductive rules that apply to abstract entities such as members or propositions, which can be said to have semantic meaning within the logical framework. However, can we say that the entities assumed by scientific frameworks exist in the same way? Indeed, this is the implication that Quine (1951) derived in a reply to Carnap’s paper. That same year, Quine had published a paper in which he questioned an old distinction assumed by empiricism between matters of fact (synthetic) and relations of ideas (analytic) – thus, between empirical and logical statements of existence – arguing that they both belong to the same continuum of science: Statements of ontology or even of mathematics and logic form a continuation of this continuum, a continuation which is perhaps yet more remote from observation than are the central principles of quantum theory or relativity. The differences here are in my view differences only in degree and not in kind. Science is a unified structure, and in principle it is the structure as a whole, and not its component statements one by one, that experience confirms or shows to be imperfect. (Ibid: 72)

Thus, “ontological questions then end up on a part with the questions of natural science” (Ibid: 71). Thus, conceptual frameworks, no matter whether logical or scientific, make ontological commitments to what there is. In other words, conceptual frameworks are not ontology-free but ontology-full since each commits to an answer to what there is. Quine will work further on clarifying this conceptual relativism in the case of scientific theories in this World and Object (1960) and Ontological Relativity (1969). According to Quine, when we learn a language, we learn an ontology. By ontology he meant not only entities in the ordinary sense of “things”, but anything that refers to something within a language, such as a “singular” (“Churchill”) or general terms (“apple”) but also relative general terms (“part of,” “bigger than,” “brother of,” and “exceeds”) and abstract terms (“roundness”). In short, with language, we not only refer to things but also to attributes, which are also part of a language’s ontology. So, in addition to logical or scientific frameworks, language itself is a linguistic system within which we refer to a system of objects. Thus, for Quine, it does not make sense to isolate any word and look at the object it refers to since the language refers to a system of objects as a whole, that is, holistically. Upon this assumption, he claims the indeterminacy of translation between languages because they refer to different ontologies that cannot be correlated: One frequently hears it urged that deep differences of language carry with them ultimate differences in the way one thinks, or looks upon the world. I would urge that what is most generally involved is indeterminacy of correlation. There is less basis of comparison—less sense in saying what is good translation and what is bad—the farther we get away from sentences with visibly direct conditioning to non-verbal stimuli and the farther we get off home ground. (Quine 1960 [2013]: 70)

4.1  The Death of Western Philosophy


Hence, the only way to partly overcome the indeterminacy of translation is what Quine calls semantic ascent: The strategy of semantic ascent is that it carries the discussion into a domain where both parties are better agreed on the objects (viz., words) and on the main terms concerning them. Words, or their inscriptions, unlike points, miles, classes, and the rest, are tangible objects of the size so popular in the marketplace, where men of unlike conceptual schemes communicate at their best. The strategy is one of ascending to a common part of two fundamentally disparate conceptual schemes. (Ibid: 251)

Quine was suggesting that the idea that the ontological question of what there is can be reduced to the question of semantic meaning since reference only makes sense within a language. And what applies to ordinary language applies equally to scientific language. Thus, a scientific conceptual scheme commits to a system of objects. This was, indeed, a radical step from arguing about the existence of objects within a linguistic framework to that of the system of objects itself within a scientific framework. Moreover, the final identification between a linguistic framework and a scientific theory committing to an ontology will be carried out in Ontological Relativity (1969). Using the analogy with the theory of relativity, Quine will now argue that reference is relative to our “frame of reference” or coordinate system. “Reference is nonsense except relative to a coordinate system” (Ibid: 48): It is meaningless to ask whether, in general, our terms […] really refer [to something]. The background language gives the query sense, if only relative sense; sense relative in turn to it, this background language. Querying reference in any more absolute way would be like asking absolute position, or absolute velocity, rather than position or velocity relative to a given frame of reference. (Ibid: 48–49)

And then Quine goes on to make the same claim not only about language but about conceptual frameworks in general, such as scientific theories: There is no absolute sense in speaking of the ontology of a theory. It very creditably brands this Pythagoreanism itself as meaningless. For there is no absolute sense in saying that all the objects of a theory are numbers, or that they are sets, or bodies, or something else; this makes no sense unless relative to some background theory. (Ibid: 60)

Nothing exists in an absolute sense but only relative to a conceptual framework which makes any reference to objects outside that language meaningless. We can only talk meaningfully about objects relative to a conceptual framework; otherwise we are talking nonsense. We have given Carnap and Quine the chance to defend the case that ontology is dependent on language. However, what has gone unnoticed is the conflation of logical meaning with semantic meaning, which needs to be disentangled. According to my view, a scientific theory has logical meaning if it is logically possible within a world-hypothesis. To use an example, the problem of non-contiguity implied by quantum mechanics was logically impossible because it did not make logical sense within the modern world-hypothesis. In other words, Carnap and Quine claim that semantic meaning is relative to a given language or theory but I argue that logical meaning depends on a world-hypothesis. But let us


4  The Foundation of Utopics

now continue our discussion of the influence of conceptual relativism on the philosophy of science. According to Hanson (1958), seeing is “theory-laden.” Theory, in this context, does not mean ideas or conjectures but a scientific conceptual framework that determines what we see. However, since not every seeing is purely linguistic because we also see pictures, “seeing is, as I should almost like to say, an amalgam of the two— pictures and language” (Ibid [1965]: 25). Despite this pictorial component, “scientific knowledge, however, is primary linguistic” (Ibid). Indeed, “knowledge of the world is not a montage of sticks, stones, colour patches and noise, but a system of propositions” (Ibid: 26). As science matures, scientific theories become less pictorial and more abstract to the point that they lose their picturability altogether: Principia became the archetype of picturability. Maxwell’s field equations for electrodynamical phenomena were criticized for not being picturable […] In elementary particle theory today phenomena are ‘encountered’ which are neither causal, nor picturable. (Ibid: 91–92)

Moreover, theories not only determine what we see but also unite the phenomena we see into a “conceptual pattern for the observed data” (Ibid: 121). Paradoxically, this capacity to unite more and more phenomena under a single scientific conceptual framework comes with a price; we stop seeing the phenomena themselves: Now modern atomic explanation denies its fundamental units any direct correspondence with primary qualities, the traditional dimensions, positions and dynamical properties […] If microphysical explanation is even to begin, it must presuppose theoretical entities endowed with just such a delicate and non-classical cluster of properties. (Ibid: 123–124)

What we see instead are unpicturable and unimaginable conceptual entities with abstract properties. If that is the case, are we seeing something or have we lost the world itself? If observation is “theory-laden,” then why can we not see the quantum world under quantum theory? Maybe we need a conceptual shift from the classical paradigm to the quantum paradigm. Well, this is how scientific revolutions happen according to Kuhn (1962). Like Hanson, Kuhn also believed that our observation is theory-laden, but a scientific framework also determines what a community of scientists cannot see. In particular, paradigms are “incommensurable ways of seeing the world and of practicing science in it [...] research as a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education” (Ibid [1996]: 4–5). Indeed, those new phenomena “that will not fit the box are often not seen at all” (Ibid: 24). And yet the fact that paradigms are myopic towards anomalous phenomena is a blessing for discovery: Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly […] Assimilating a new sort of fact demands a more than additive adjustment of theory, and until that adjustment is completed—until the scientist has learned to see nature in a different way—the new fact is not quite a scientific fact at all. (Ibid: 52–53)

To see nature in a different way to accommodate the anomaly, the scientific community needs to change the paradigm that blocks its sight. Indeed, “discovery involves an extended, though not necessarily long, process of conceptual assimilation. Can we also say that it involves a change in paradigm? […] the answer must

4.2  Demarcating Philosophy from Science


be yes” (Ibid: 56). Accordingly, the discovery of quantum mechanics was a conceptual shift from classical physics to a new paradigm in which the community of scientists learned to see the world differently. But is that what actually happened? The analysis of the famous Solvay 1927 Conference (Appendix I) suggests otherwise. Indeed, by that time, the assimilation of quantum mechanics meant the introduction of a new conceptual framework made up of matrix mechanics (Born, Heisenberg and Jordan 1925), the Schrödinger equation (Schrödinger 1926), the probabilistic wave (Born 1926), the Heisenberg’s (1927) uncertainty principle, and Bohr’s (1927) complementarity principle. However, rather than seeing the world differently by adopting quantum theory, the Copenhagen paradigm lost sight of the world altogether by claiming that the state of a quantum system was described by an abstract wave in abstract space. How is this possible if, according to Hanson and Kuhn, the world we see is relative to a scientific framework? Furthermore, if philosophy wants to be useful to science again, we also have to question Wittgenstein’s (1970) prejudice that philosophy makes no real progress: People say again and again that philosophy doesn’t really progress, that we are still occupied with the same philosophical problems as were the Greeks. But the people who say that don’t understand why this has to be so. It is because our language has remained the same and keeps seducing us into asking the same questions. (Ibid. [1980]: 15)

My high school philosophy teacher, Angel Ros (1992), wrote the following about this conception of philosophy: The only progress we can attribute it, and only in the best case, is a progressive clarification of the terms in dispute, but never the clarification of the problem itself. It is accepted, therefore, that one can speak of philosophical progress in the areas of pure logic (even though often conceived as an independent discipline), the philosophy of language or the philosophy of science, areas where little knowledge of reality can be found. (Ibid:1)

Absolutely, analytical philosophy has given up explaining the universe itself arguing that its sole business is the analysis of language. However, linguistic analysis has been of little help to scientists given that the meaning of quantum mechanics is still a mystery which will only start to make sense when philosophy discovers a new world-hypothesis.

4.2  Demarcating Philosophy from Science After this introductory remark on our present situation, it would be absurd to claim that we can still carry out another rebirth of Western philosophy. This would imply assuming the progress made by Western philosophy within a new world-hypothesis. However, this is no longer possible because the modern world-hypotheses is logically incompatible with the last world-hypothesis so a new synthesis is impossible. In fact, as we saw in the previous chapter, that was Husserl’s dream of 1917 while he was writing Ideas II: “a reconciliation between the naturalistic world-view that dominated the epoch just expired and the teleological world-view”. But now the


4  The Foundation of Utopics

spiritual world, as an all-encompassing cultural world, has absorbed the world of science and thus Nature is grounded on the temporally constituted Spirit. This means that spatiality of Nature is constituted by the primordial temporality of Spirit, according to Heidegger. Hartmann softened that proposal by claiming that the structure of Nature itself is temporal in addition to spatial. And yet, Dooyeweerd was less compromising, space originates from cosmic time. So the dream of the reconciliation between the spatial Nature and the temporal Spirit is over. Space has been completely reduced to time as one of the “temporal meaning-aspects” of reality. In short, the logical possibilities within Western philosophy have put a logical limit to our thinking imagination. If we want to surpass this philosophical dead end, it will have to be from without Western world-hypotheses because the logical synthesis of that philosophical development in a new cosmology is impossible. However, am I not claiming something logically impossible if what grounds our thinking imagination is world-hypothesis? How can we surpass the progress of history of Western philosophy if that is what has made our thinking possible? Well, not all philosophical progress depends on Western world-hypothesis. Indeed, we can break the logical limits imposed by the prevailing world-hypothesis by starting a new tradition in world-hypothesis. Again, how is this possible if the human system writing this book belongs to the same human civilization imposing the limits on its thinking imagination? At first it might seem something impossible, but there is a way forward that suggests itself: doing philosophy again. Well, there is also the option to continue without philosophy. Surely, nobody will suffer any harm from the death of Western philosophy we might think. However, the stakes are high for science. We only have to look at the state of physics after losing its foundation at the Solvay 1927 Conference in Brussels. Those that have attended a congress on the state of quantum mechanics will notice that something fundamental is missing as many bright people seem to have lost sight of the world with the collapse of the modern cosmology. Now physicists are split between those that investigate an intelligible macrocosmos and those that have to make sense of a mysterious microcosmos that seems to defy all logic. But there are also those that have chosen the more paradoxical in-between pursing the logically impossible integration between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Indeed, the collapse of the modern world-­ hypothesis has brought a halt to the logical possibilities entertained by the thinking imagination of our physicist. So there is, indeed, a big price to pay from not doing philosophy that we cannot afford, the foundational crisis of physics and its consequence, the interpretation crisis in quantum mechanics. In the case of other sciences, things seem to be looking better judging from the progress in molecular biology after the evolutionary synthesis, the so-called genetic revolution. However, biology is experiencing the same logical limit with its biological concept of species trapped in population thinking. Again, world-hypothesis not only determines thinking but also seeing itself, and therefore, we see the biological world in terms of juxtaposed populations coexisting next to each other in different spaces. Even if we speak of ecosystems, we conceive them in terms of reciprocally interacting populations evolving through natural selection. What evolve are the populations, and the ecosystem is a physical environment in which they evolve but not something that

4.2  Demarcating Philosophy from Science


evolves together with them because the ecosystem lacks the condition of biological species. Furthermore, many have spoken of the “cognitive revolution” that emerged in the mid-1950s, but we are still waiting for it to happen. It could never take off because it assumed that organisms endowed with brains are separate from their environment. Therefore, the organism with its environment cannot be thought as a system behaving because what behaves is only the organism in the environment. More importantly for this book, without doing philosophy again will be logically impossible to inform human science with a concept of human system. In summary, the problematic situation in all the domains of science demands a new world-­ hypothesis without which we will have to continue living with the interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics, the limited population thinking, the failure of cognitive science, and the absence of a new anthropology to inform the new domain of human science. Therefore, if we care about the progress of science, we have no choice but to do philosophy again. But if we do want to do philosophy again to be helpful to science, it is more important than ever to understand how philosophy differs from science. And this means demarcating the most fundamental forms of knowledge, the domain of world-hypothesis or philosophy from the domain of theory or science. So far, we have already clarified what a world-hypothesis is, namely, something that makes both thinking and seeing possible by determining what is logically possible or impossible within a cosmology. In short, world-hypothesis is something that shapes our thinking imagination in the world. This, of course, has a fundamental impact on science as it determines what scientists think as being logically possible or impossible to think and, therefore, to see as being the case in the world. We have already mentioned two revealing examples, Einstein and Dilthey, both trying to make sense of different worlds, the physical and the human world, within the logical possibilities or impossibilities determined by the modern world-hypothesis. Einstein’s thinking imagination, for instance, was grounded on the principle of contiguity which ruled out the logical possibility of two bodies coexisting in the same space. As for Dilthey, if man was a psychophysical unit constituted by mind and body, it was logically possible to distinguish between two different types of experience, inner and outer experiences. There is a mark contrast between these two examples that is also revealing, whereas Einstein has exhausted the logical possibilities of the modern world-hypothesis with general relativity, Dilthey could not even get started. Thus, the relationship between world-hypothesis and theory is clear: the progress of science depends on the progress of philosophy. This does not mean that scientist cannot make any new scientific discoveries before a new world-hypothesis is born, but rather that the consolidation of science depends on the progress of philosophy. We can mention a couple of examples from the history of science. The acceptance of Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution had to wait nearly 90 years after its discovery until the evolutionary synthesis was finally grounded on a new world-hypothesis, and Ashby’s (Appendix II) theory of adaptive behaviour is still waiting for the neo-­ cybernetics synthesis nearly 70 years after its discovery. Furthermore, though these great scientists did question some assumptions of the modern world-hypothesis, their thinking imagination was not completely free from its influence. Again,


4  The Foundation of Utopics

Darwin’s (1859) concept of species defined as “degrees of difference” was still subjected to typological thinking, species varied in relation an unchanging type, and Ashby’s (1956) law of requisite variety meant that the organism with its environment was eventually replaced by the brain (the regulator) being separated from the environment (the system being regulated). One major difference of the domain of philosophy compared to that of science is that within world-hypothesis, the fundamental questions of philosophy are logically connected, whereas each domain of science has its own fundamental question. To give two examples, the fundamental problems of the domain biological science and of neo-cybernetics are why living systems evolve as they do and why organisms maintain a stable equilibrium with their environment, respectively. Indeed, the second question is autonomous from the first; otherwise science would be one absolute domain that could be explained by a Theory of Everything which is far from being the case. In addition, as we can realize by looking at the form of fundamental scientific questions, they are why-questions, whereas, in the case of philosophy, all the fundamental questions we have seen are possibility-questions, how is such-and-­ such possible? This is our first criteria to demarcate philosophy from science, the type of fundamental questions informing philosophical and scientific inquiries. The domain of philosophy is informed by logically connected possibility-questions and the domain of science by logically independent why-questions. However, this does not mean that the different types of systems investigated by the different types of sciences have their own independent laws. On the contrary, the laws of biology apply to the cybernetic world just as much as the laws of physics apply to the biological world, and thus the human world is not independent from the laws of neo-­ cybernetics either. Next, like in science, philosophical questions are not detached from matters of fact, and we have already seen the facts that philosophers have been assumed as being the case. Behind every fundamental question there is a matter of fact. In particular, “how is something rather than noting possible?” assumes that “there is something,” indeed, and “how is the structure of everything possible?” that “everything is structured somehow”. Likewise, “how is knowledge possible?” assumes that “there is knowledge”, and “how is the foundation of science possible?”, that “science is grounded somehow”. But, unlike science, these facts assumed by philosophers are not the same facts observed by scientists in their experiments. That “there is something” cannot be observed because it is presupposed before any experiment or observation is carried out because nobody has doubts about it; this is a pure fact. Similarly, that “everything is structured somehow” is not a fact that we can verify by observing the whole constitution of the universe, there is no single or group of experiments we can think of that could observed this pure fact. Of course, we can observe atoms, cells, or organisms and look at their structure but that the universe as a whole is a structured somehow is assumed as a pure fact. As regards the fact “that there is knowledge”, we cannot observe a scientific theory by saying it is here in this article or there in that book because that is an empirical fact not a pure fact and the same goes for the pure fact that “science is grounded somehow”. We are used to thinking of facts in terms of observations but pure facts are actual

4.2  Demarcating Philosophy from Science


facts of a different kind not reducible to empirical facts. To put it succinctly: pure facts are assumed, empirical facts are observed. So far, we have found two criteria to demarcate philosophy from science, namely, different types of questions and different types of facts, but now we have to find out more about the answers they discover in their inquiries and the methods by which they do so. The answers that philosophy and science discover are also explanations or, to be more accurate, possible hypotheses, which can also be different in kind. In the case of science, those possible hypotheses have a predictive character. A good example is Einstein’s theory of general relativity which suggested the prediction of an exact actual fact if gravity was actually a spatiotemporal curvature. If that was the case, when observing a total solar eclipse, the sun would deflect the light coming from the stars. Indeed, this prediction was confirmed on 29 May 1919 by the expedition led by Eddington. That possible hypothesis was in principle predictive; otherwise we would have never been able to test it. Conversely, it could have been rejected if the observation had contradicted the hypothesis. We owe this criterion of falsifiability to Popper (1934) who proposed it to distinguish scientific from pseudo-­ scientific explanations. If possible hypotheses render predictions, they can enter the domain of science as long as they are vindicated by observations. In addition, those possible hypotheses are not self-sustaining given that they depend on an accumulated body of scientific knowledge. Well, something similar happens in the domain of philosophy. A world-hypothesis also depends on the accumulated body of philosophic knowledge. To take the history of Western philosophy as an example, the next world-hypothesis was always sustained on the former world-hypothesis, the cultural world on the material world, for instance. Likewise, a world-hypothesis is also a possible hypothesis though it is not predictive. This means that world-­ hypothesis differs from theory somehow but not in terms of rationality because a world-hypothesis determines what we can think as being logically possible or impossible. In saying that it determines what we think and see, it implies that world-­ hypothesis shapes our thinking imagination, and, therefore, these types of “possible” hypothesis are related to being imaginable. Indeed, being an imaginable logical possibility is the essence world-hypothesis. In fact, when scientists carry out a thought-experiment, their thinking imagination is working within the domain of imaginable logical possibility. Therefore, imaginable is not opposed to thinkable because both philosophy and science are different forms of thought of our thinking imagination. We will discuss this matter further when we answer the fundamental philosophical question of how is knowledge possible. Finally, those possible hypotheses, that come from our thinking imagination and make it into the domain of theory or of world-hypothesis, are answers to different types of question discovered by means of different methods. Again, Popper (1934) also provided the criterion to specify the method of science which, of course, is related to falsifiability given that a prediction is something that we infer deductively from a possible hypothesis. If gravity is a spatiotemporal curvature related to mass, for instance, we can predict that the sun will deflect the light in the event of a solar eclipse, indeed, but we can also deduce the amount of deflection according to the mass of the sun. In other words, we can infer deductively the exact empirical fact we

44 Table 4.1  The demarcation between philosophy and science

4  The Foundation of Utopics Criteria Question Fact Hypothesis Method

Philosophy Possibility-Question Pure Fact Imaginable Hypothetico-Inductive

Science Why-Question Empirical Fact Predictive Hypothetico-Deductive

are supposed to observe if the possible hypothesis is true and, in this sense, the method of science is the hypothetico-deductive. This is why we have generally associated science with mathematics or exact science such as general relativity which makes use of non-Euclidean geometry, and why we associate space with number after Descartes’ (1637) discovery of analytic geometry, an assumption that was reinforced by Newton’s use of the infinitesimal calculus in the Principia (1687). However, though useful to make exact predictions, not every science is exact science because in other domains of science, we can still deduce predictions without mathematics. The use of the hypothetico-deductive method also allows us to move backwards in time to study the evolution of the living systems by comparing the samples of extant or extinct species. But we can also move forward in time by anticipating the behaviour of cybernetic systems either by observing the free animal in its natural ecosystem or an intact animal in a controlled environment. Therefore, a deductive inference from a possible hypothesis does not necessarily imply a mathematical inference. In the case of philosophy, what is the method of discovery of world-hypothesis? Well, we cannot deduce empirical facts from a world-hypothesis because philosophy does not start with a possible hypothesis. No, philosophy begins with a fundamental question that assumes a pure fact. And thus the method of philosophy works the other way around; it infers inductively a world-hypothesis from a matter of fact. That is, rather than inferring an empirical fact from a possible hypothesis, as science does, we infer a possible hypothesis from a pure fact, and, in so doing, philosophy can be said to use the hypothetico-inductive method. Now we can summarize the demarcation between philosophy and science (Table 4.1).

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis What else do we need to know before working out a new world-hypothesis? Well, if it can only come from without the history of Western philosophy, this means that it cannot assume the same answers which resulted in the world-hypotheses that we already know. In addition, we should remember that all the fundamental questions of philosophy are logically connected to each other. Among them, there is one which is the most fundamental of all because it is the primordial question of any philosophical inquiry: how is something rather than nothing possible? If we do not start with the fundamental beginning, we will never reach the fundamental end, namely, the last fundamental question of any philosophical inquiry: how is the

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


foundation of science possible? When I say that it is the last of all the fundamental questions, this does not imply that there is a final answer because, like scientific progress, philosophy is an endless endeavour without a final end as every answer always results in new questions without a limit. Therefore, world-hypothesis will never be absolutely complete just like it happens in every domain of science. In the case of the development of Western philosophy, for instance, the answer to the primordial question resulted in another fundamental question, once we had an answer to how something rather than nothing is possible, the next question suggested itself: how is the structure of everything possible? In turn, after having developed an answer including ourselves, it would take us to the next question: how is knowledge possible? And the answer to that question to the last question because they are all logically connected. Furthermore, even when we answer every fundamental question successfully, new questions will always emerge from within each of them. So all we can hope for at this moment is to discover the general answers to the fundamental questions and some specific answers required for the purpose of this book. We should also bear in mind that the discovery of those general answers will not result in different world-hypotheses, one from each answer, since the new philosophical knowledge gathered at each stage will accumulate within the domain of world-hypothesis, just as it happens with the discovery of new scientific knowledge within each domain of science. I think we are now ready to start our philosophical journey into the discovery of a new world-hypothesis. Let us dare to do philosophy again!

4.3.1  How Is Something Rather than Nothing Possible? Any philosophical inquiry that wants to begin from without Western philosophy has to start with same primordial question that launched that tradition but not with the same answer. And prior to that, the beginning of the beginning has to assume the very first pure fact underlying the primordial question of philosophy, that there is something. If there is something, how is something rather than nothing possible? Plato’s answer was that something, the sensible world of appearances, is possible because it participates in the intelligible world of ideas. But how is this “is” possible? Basically, because there is unity in multiplicity in the sense that immutable ideas are somehow in the multiple appearances, there is also multiplicity in unity because the intelligible world is equally multiple; otherwise the sensible world would not be as multiple as it is. There is something rather than nothing because everything participates in something that is both One-Many. In other words, the multiple appearances of the sensible world all participate in the immutable being of the intelligible world. So, deep down, reality is constituted by immutable ideas that explain the multiplicity of things we observe in the sensible world. This also implies that the intelligible world is immanent to, rather than transcendent to, the sensible world, given that the former is not separate from or beyond the latter. What is important to notice here is that the answer that gave birth to the first world-hypothesis in


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the history of Western philosophy was the One-Many dualism. Strictly speaking, this is when philosophy actually begins. Before that, there was the first pure fact, that there is something, which the Pre-Socratics and every other human being before them had assumed as being the case, but it was Plato’s own merit to have provided an answer to explain it. Furthermore, maybe the concern for that question, “the riddle of the world” as Schopenhauer (1844) would call it, is actually the origin of religion, resulting from “man’s need for metaphysics”. However, Plato did not postulate another world beyond this world, as it is generally believed. His concern was to explain this world which must also be the concern of all philosophy. Indeed, to use Schopenhauer again, “philosophy is essentially world-wisdom: its problem is the world”. The riddle of the world cannot be answered from without the world itself if we want do philosophy, but we can neither adopt Plato’s answer again because we have to search for a new world-hypothesis from without the Western thought, so we must begin to do philosophy anew. That primordial question is the question of being as such because the pure fact that there is something means that something is, that being is something. So when we ask how is something rather than nothing possible, that “something that is” necessarily precedes nothing because we cannot think about nothing without thinking about something. Nothing is the negation of “something that is” before we can turn it into being nothing. This idea is not something strange to us as we are aware of it every time we think about our own death as turning into nothing. Our life necessarily precedes our death because we do not come into being from death even if we may turn into nothing after our death. Therefore, even nothing comes from something because out of nothing comes nothing. But how does that “something that is” which is not nothing come into being something? This same question assumes that “something that is” must come from something other than itself unless it comes from itself in which case it does not come from without itself. Likewise, this idea must not sound strange to us as we are also aware of it every time we go to something from ourselves. So rather than thinking that something “coming from something” is more fundamental that something “going to something”, it is the other way around given that we can only come from something if we have already gone to something from which it can then be said that we “come from”. In other words, to come from something presupposes already that something goes to something from itself. But if that something goes to something from itself, then that something is self-determined rather than being determined by something other than itself. Being is therefore something self-determined and therefore “everything that is” is a self-­ determined being. This seems to be the first conclusion we can reach which implies that our new cosmology is a self-determined universe. Furthermore, if the universe includes “everything that is” and being is self-determination, then all beings in the universe regardless of their nature are self-determined beings. In a nutshell, the essence of the universe is self-determination. Can we say more about the universe at this point? Indeed. If the universe is “everything that is”, this implies that there cannot be parallel universes or possible worlds coexisting simultaneously until someone makes an observation. No, we cannot separate the possible from the actual and say that our world results from one of

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


the possible worlds. If the universe is something that goes to something from itself, it can only go to the possible from the actual because the possible can only come from the actual, and therefore it is impossible for actual to come from the possible. Therefore, we have found that self-determination is intrinsically related to actuality-­ possibility, a fundamental duality we will have to discuss further after we discover what defines a human system. It is interesting that it has come up so early in our investigation which already proves how this primordial philosophical question is intrinsically connected to the fundamental question of utopics given that “cosmology” cannot be detached from “anthropology”. Furthermore, this does not mean that cosmology is relative to consciousness because in postulating that separation we would be assuming the answer that the Western tradition gave to the problem of knowledge, namely, the Subject-Object dualism. As to the general answer as to “how is something rather than nothing possible?”, we can conclude by saying that there is something because everything that “is” is a self-determined being in which it is impossible to separate the possible from the actual universe. This is our new beginning helping launch a new world-hypothesis that comes from doing philosophy again from without Western philosophy. Of course, this new answer generates many new questions such as whether the self-­ determined universe has a beginning or an end. But if the universe is always going to something, it can never start or finish, that is, come into being or pass away. If so, the universe was never created nor can ever be destroyed. Maybe it has always being there, and it will always remain there. This does not mean, however, that the universe is immutable because if this was the case, it would never change, but going to something implies that the universe is always at work rather than at rest. It can only rest when it goes to nothing, but this is not possible because universe never ever dies. Therefore, the self-determined universe has no first beginning nor final end as it is always working without ever resting. Furthermore, if the universe never dies, can we conclude that the universe is always being reborn? No, because in order to be reborn, first you have to die but the universe never passes away. Then, can we conclude that if the universe always goes to something, it must always go to the same thing? No, that would imply that the universe is not a self-determined being because it would always be determined by the same thing. Thus, our self-­determined universe does not always go to the same thing because it can go to different things. It is very possible that those different things our universe can go to are the possible things it can actually go to. We will not continue seeking for answers to the new questions that arise because our purpose is to continue investigating the next fundamental question that comes from answering the primordial question of philosophy.

4.3.2  How Is the Structure of Everything Possible? Now that we know the answer to the question of the riddle of the world, the being of the universe is self-determination, the next fundamental question that we can move to is: how is the structure of everything possible? This question is the question


4  The Foundation of Utopics

of the structure of our self-determined universe, our new cosmology. In answering this question, we cannot follow Augustine who conceived God’s creation in terms of a scale of nature in which there is a hierarchy of unified creatures belonging either to the visible, namely, non-living, living, animated, and humans, or to the invisible such as angels. In the case of the human being, it is a creature made in the image of God and, as such, endowed with an intelligent soul superior to the body which it shares with “beasts”, animals without a soul. On the top of this order there is God, the greatest invisible being, who rules supreme over His greatest visible creation, the universe. Therefore, the created world is not a self-determined being because only God and the human beings and angels who follow His mandate are free, that is, only the creatures that have a soul and that obey the will of God are said to be free. But though humans were created free, they lost that condition the very moment they disobeyed his law and were punished with the toll of the body in becoming slaves of their passions, like beasts. In short, the essence of human beings is not self-determination and even less of the rest of the universe which is determined by God. And even those human beings that follow the His will are not truly self-determined because, in so doing, the supreme part, the soul, is ruling over the inferior part, the body, and, thus, the unity of body-soul is not self-determined as such. The created world seems to be the antithesis of our self-determined universe in as much as there is only one self-determined being, God. If the structure of the universe is not hierarchical because this contradicts its very essence, self-­ determination, then everything must be structured differently but somehow as this is something we assume as a matter of fact. What is the actual “anatomy” of the universe then? Well, if ours is a self-­ determined universe, it cannot have multiple structures in which one part (the soul) is independent from the other (the body), so it must have one single structure in which all parts are mutually dependent, like the human body. This is a useful analogy to start with, but we will have to leave it behind as we cannot dissect the “anatomy” of the universe. Physiologically speaking, a healthy body is a well-coordinated structure that functions smoothly when all the parts are working together each of them doing its own function. Of course, that working of the whole human body is dependent both on the anatomy of every organ and on the functions of the nervous system coordinating everything. In turn, it depends on the physicochemical processes going on within and across the cells. In addition, the human body will stop working smoothly as soon as that coordination between the different organs starts to break down. This is the mechanistic conception of the universe that has been so much criticized by anti-materialistic philosophies which wanted to prevent the mind or the spirit from entering the machinery of nature. Descartes and Husserl are good examples. Descartes argued that the mind, unlike the body, is not an extended thing and Husserl (1936) that Spirit, unlike Nature, “exists in itself and for itself” (Ibid [1970]: 297). The last philosopher that worked out the “anatomy” of the universe to accommodate Nature with Spirit was Hartmann’s The Structure of the Real World (1940) which is both the last major work in Western philosophy and the most accomplished answer to that second fundamental question first tacked by Augustine. This goes to show that Western world-hypotheses are not free from each other as the

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


idea of the universe having multiple structures, one autonomous from the other, had already appeared in the history of Western philosophy, but Hartmann would provide an answer according to logical possibilities of current world-hypothesis. He distinguished between different “strata of reality” that constituted the structure of the real world. Before him, Husserl has talked about the constitution of two major regions of being, Nature and Spirit. However, the subdivisions proposed by Hartmann within that overall division were slightly different, especially regarding the “lower” strata of reality. Rather than splitting Nature into physical and psychic being, the material world was constituted by physical and organic being, that is, living beings. In other words, the biological stratum, which is not equivalent to the psychic stratum, is a living organism. Similarly, unlike Husserl, the boundaries of Spirit start with “animal nature” in as much it has consciousness, that is, psychic being, but it also includes spiritual being, the highest stratum of reality. In addition, this fourfold division of the structure of the real world agrees with Augustine and Descartes in considering the Spirit as non-material and non-spatial respectively. So how are lower and higher strata distinguished from Augustine’s hierarchy of creatures? Well, Hartmann is not talking about any particular being but of the overall constitution of the universe as a whole which is divides into two major regions, spatiotemporal Nature and temporal Spirit. The Spirit rest on Nature in the same way that Husserl argued that the Mind depends on the Body, but, like him, the Spirit is autonomous from the Nature. Hartmann calls this relationship between strata “autonomy in dependence” in which higher strata depend on but are independent from lower strata. How is this possible? Basically, and this is where the “objective meanings” of the present “cosmology” enter the picture, each strata of reality is defined by a different group of categories, some of which recur or repeat at higher strata, but others emerge as something completely anew and autonomous from lower strata. “Freedom enters whenever a categorical novelty enters. Free is every higher determination which raises itself above a lower one” (Ibid [1959]: 121). The result is a universe conceived as an emerging hierarchy of autonomous structures. If so, the universe is constituted by multiple structures piling on each other rather than being one single structure. However, as we will see, having one structure does not exclude multiple beings of different kinds. We have to continue the second stage of our inquiry building on the philosophical knowledge we already discovered by answering the first primordial question. If our self-determined universe does not have a beginning or a final end because it is always working and never resting, then the actual structure of the universe must be immutable. To use Hartmann stratified universe, the organic stratum cannot emerge from the material stratum, just like the spiritual stratum cannot emerge from the psychic stratum. If higher strata emerged from lower strata, it would mean that the structure of the universe started with a material structure from which the biological structure emerged and finally ended with the spiritual structure that emerged from the psychic structure. With this we do not want to imply that beings in the universe do not change. On the contrary, if all beings are always going to something, it means that they are all changing forever and wherever they are in the universe. This immutability brings to mind another couple of fundamental properties of the actual


4  The Foundation of Utopics

structure of the universe: eternity and infinity. That is, in addition to being immutable, the structure of the universe is also eternal and infinite. Again, this structure is not out of space and time, because eternity is equal to temporality and infinity to spatiality. Indeed, all the self-determined beings that share the structure of the universe are both spatial and temporal. These are two fundamental dimensions of the universe we will have to discuss straight way, but before we do that, let us finish this preliminary introduction to the actual structure of our self-determined universe and of everything that exists with a reminder of its most general properties (Table 4.2). The question of the structure of the universe is showing us that there is multiplicity in everything that exists. Indeed, though the actual structure of the universe is one, it is far from being homogenously constituted. Our universe does not have a homogenous structure as Descartes believed. For him, the structure of the material world was spatially constituted by extended objects coexisting next to each other in different spaces. Hence, the structure of the universe was absolutely homogenous since everything that exists is fundamentally spatial. The material world is defined in its totality by being extended: matter occupies space. Likewise, in the current world-hypothesis, which includes Nature as a correlate of Spirit, the cosmos as a whole is temporally constituted in its entirety. Of course, Husserl (1931) and Hartmann (1940) were more conciliatory since the former wanted to integrate the two worlds by claiming that “there can exit only one Objective world, only one Objective time, only one Objective space” (Ibid [1960]: 140) and the latter granted Nature a spatiotemporal dimension whereas Spirit was only temporal. However, Heidegger (1927) and Dooyeweerd (1935–1936) who had worked out the temporal dimension of the universe were not arguing for a compromise: the structure of the cosmos is primordially temporal. Spatiality is not excluded from the universe altogether, but it is reduced to being one of the multiple modalities of meaning of the temporal cosmos. So, in the hands of these philosophers, everything that exists is fundamentally temporality. In contrast, for Kant, time was an internal sense in virtue of which we could experience changes in the material world, so time was that place where things happened. Accordingly, for both cosmologies, time and space are homogenous dimensions of the universe: either time is reducible to space or space reducible to time. Having said this, contemporary philosophy followed the medieval philosophy in terms of arguing that not everything in the universe is reducible to materiality. Descartes had already said that there is a thinking subject whose essence is not extension given that it “has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing”. And Husserl and Hartmann had actually extended the territory of Nature to Table 4.2  The attributes of the universe

The universe One Immutable Eternal Infinite

Everything that exists Many Changeable Temporal Spatial

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


include “animal nature” and biological being in addition to arguing for “a new territory of being”, “man as spirit”, or spiritual being, as non-material and non-spatial. Therefore, though the material and cultural worlds were homogenously structured, the human world seemed to be more heterogeneous in as much it could not be reduced to matter. At least this is what appears at first sight, but if we analyse the matter further, we realize that what the contemporary world-hypothesis assumes as being the essence of reality is something homogeneous: meaning. And even if Hartmann (1940) might seem to be an exception, it is actually confirmed by his “theory of categories [as] the development of ontology turning to the contents” (Ibid [1959]: 2). Indeed, he postulated a correspondence between groups of categories and strata of reality, and, by doing so, the universe was duplicated by a parallel reality of objective meanings constituting the structure of the real world. So what actually determined the heterogeneity of the strata of reality were special groups of categories which differed in terms of content. If we compare Hartmann with Dooyeweerd, we could say that whereas the former developed Husserl’s meaning aspect, the latter developed Heidegger’s temporal aspect. However, it was the new concept of time that was going to ground the domain of the biological science in the late 1930s and 1940s coinciding with the evolutionary synthesis. So despite assuming that reality was constituted by objective meanings, the current world-hypothesis also contributed to science in making possible the establishment of a new domain of science. What had always being lacking in the history of Western philosophy was a way to distinguish the heterogeneity of beings in the universe which no philosopher denied. Reducing human beings to extended beings did not seem to do justice to their nature but conceiving physical beings as historical beings even less. Contemporary philosophy was trapped in the Nature-Spirit dualism, and the only possible way to distinguish these two major regions of beings had been pursued by Hartmann to its logical limits. Similarly, modern philosophy had also created a “great abyss” impossible to overcome. In the words of Hartmann (1949): This especially sharp boundary of the organic stratum was known since ancient times, for example, in Descartes, Spinoza, Geulincx and Leibniz, as the “psychophysical dividing line”. At that time, the abyss between the soul and the body came to the forefront and became the great problem of the 17th Century. (Ibid [1961]: 123)

Indeed, this great philosopher could not ignore the “great split” between the extended and the thinking thing so what he did was to include the organic being in Nature and the psychic being in the Spirit, even though he did not know where to place higher animals which had a “spiritless consciousness” as opposed to the consciousness of the “personal spirit”. And, therefore, Hartmann’s (1940) upper boundary was equally problematic in as much as “they are same acts of consciousness that belong simultaneously to both the psychic and the spiritual being” (Ibid [1959]: 219). Earlier in The Problem of Spiritual Being (1933), he had tried to distinguish consciousness from spirit by claiming that “Consciousness separates men. Spirit unites them” (Ibid [2007]: 205). If the category of consciousness belongs to both


4  The Foundation of Utopics

psychic and spiritual being, what is the category that only applies to the Spirit? Historicity and, thus, we are back to Heidegger: The objective spirit is the only carrier of history in the strict and primary sense; he is the only one who properly “has a history”. He is the only supra-individual and common spirit, but at the same time real and living spirit. Its transformations and vicissitudes constitute the historical change and the historical destiny. (Ibid: 127)

But what does the objective spirit carry? Spiritual contents and thus, we are back to Husserl: Everything that an individual spiritual being gives or represents as its opinions, representations, judgements, prejudices, concepts and intuitions. From the point of view of consciousness, we can call these configurations internal or intentional objects, since they are internal correlates of the acts of thought. (Ibid: 248)

In summary, contemporary philosophy has arrived at four strata of reality constituting the structure of the universe, but it cannot distinguish what constitutes each major regions of beings besides saying that Nature is defined by materiality and spatiality and Spirit by consciousness and historicity. In my opinion, the full development of Western philosophy does not seem to do justice to the heterogeneity of beings in the universe because it has no way of defining the different ontological levels constituting the structure of the universe. To do so, however, we have to discover the actual heterogeneous structure that constitutes our self-determined universe. Again, we must dare to continue doing philosophy anew. We can start by saying that the only way to define the structure of everything is by discovering the intrinsic structure of every type of being that shares that same structure. We have just used an essential term “shares” which is fundamentally different from “occupies”. If we want do to philosophy from without Western philosophy, we need to leave behind the assumption that lies behind the modern world-hypothesis, namely, that beings occupy space and everything happens within time. Instead, the self-determined universe shares its space and time with the rest of the universe working together. Likewise, “working together” is also radically different from “working alone”, another assumption implicit in the idea that beings coexist next to each in different places doing their own thing, that is, the principle of contiguity at the core of the modern cosmology. According to this view, once they are put in motion, bodies will continue moving in one direction until something external changes their course. On the contrary, in our universe, beings always work together even if they do not always realize. However, by working together, we do not mean that they all do the same thing because, in going to something, they can work together doing different things. And they do different things because they are different. How different? Obviously, to take Augustine’s types of creatures, a non-living being does not do the same as a tree, nor a tree as an animal, and humans also do different things from the rest of the universe. But what is less obvious is what makes them different. We can say that a tree has life which non-living beings are lacking, that an animal has sensations and passions which are altogether missing in trees, and that a human in addition has intelligence which is not obvious in the case of lower animals. Furthermore, in the

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


modern age, the universe is extended in space while we are thinking subjects, and, in the present time, we are historical being or Spirit while the rest is Nature. Of course, at the end of the modern period, we have the “philosophy of life” denying that we are thinking subjects claiming that deep down we are all animals, but this only conflates two different beings together, organic and psychic beings, without explaining what makes them different. Likewise, the last modern philosopher, Scheler (1928), said that plants and animals are both living beings and, thus, extended the territory of life to higher animals. This is not very helpful for science because each domain of science is dependent on having a clear concept of what scientists are investigating in order to discover the “laws” that explain how a particular type of being works. In the case of physics, for instance, the concept of moving corpuscles had informed the physical theories until the birth of quantum mechanics when the particle-wave duality confused our “image of matter”. As Schrödinger (1952) wrote: Everything – really everything – is both particle and wave field […] de Broglie’s dissertation was the point of departure for the complete uncertainty of our conception of matter. In the image of both particles and waves there are elements of truth which we must not abandon. But we do not know how to combine them. (Ibid [1961]: 56–57)

In the case of biology, though it is now living its golden age, the concept of evolving species also suffers from the same deficiency as the modern concept of matter. According to Mayr (1982), “a species is a reproductive community of populations (reproductively isolated from others) that occupies a specific niche in nature” (Ibid: 273). That is, both corpuscles and species occupy different spaces and thus move and evolve alone. More problematic, however, is the concept of information processing mind informing cognitive science in which the brain is conceived as a machine modelling something separate from it, the environment. Not to mention the meaning-giving animals informing the so-called social sciences and the humanities. But to understand why these concepts are insufficient or useless to inform science, we need to discover the intrinsic structure of everything that exists from physical to human beings. To do so, however, we must first start with the universe itself because, as we have already said, our self-determined universe shares its space and time with the rest of the universe working together. To start with the two dimensions of the universe, space and time, is not an arbitrary choice since every world-hypothesis that we have known in the history of Western philosophy always started with a fundamental dualism which we will try to avoid by beginning with a fundamental duality. The term “duality” rather than “dualism” is not an arbitrary choice either. Let us remind ourselves what were the fundamental dualisms underpinning the different Western world-hypotheses (Table 4.3). Why do I say that these are dualisms rather than dualities? Well, a dualism is always defined in opposition to something, what is not one is many, what is not visible is invisible, and so forth. What is not one thing necessary becomes the other thing since these dualisms are all world-encompassing and thus nothing else can be left out them. Accordingly, the universe which includes “everything that exists” is

54 Table 4.3  The dualism in the history of Western philosophy

4  The Foundation of Utopics Periods Antiquity Middle Ages Modernity Contemporaneity

Dualism One-Many Visible-Invisible Subject-Object Nature-Spirit

World-Hypothesis Sensible World Created World Material World Cultural World

constituted by a fundamental polarity. However, a duality is different from a polarity in the sense that does not imply a contrariety. Unlike a polarity, a member of a duality is not defined in opposition to the other member. Another way to see this distinction is to realize that in a polarity the relationship between its members is dialectical, one is the antithesis of the other, whereas in a duality, the two members are simultaneous. In short, a duality is fundamentally constituted by a simultaneous relationship between its members. Simultaneity already implies that two things can coincide without being antagonistic to each other. Furthermore, simultaneity applies to both space and time which are the two dimensions that our self-determined universe shares with the rest of the universe. Absolutely, space-time is the world-­encompassing fundamental duality that does not split the universe into two opposite dimensions and that includes everything that exists. Its members are neither opposite nor homogenous dimensions because time is not homogenous to space nor space like time. On the contrary, space and time are heterogeneous dimensions of the universe that are shared with the rest of the universe. If so, it could appear that everything is homogenous in our all-encompassing world in the sense that everything has the same spatiotemporal nature. This would be the case, indeed, if these two heterogeneous dimensions of the universe were homogeneously structured, but this contradicts the heterogeneity in the universe. And that heterogeneity suggests that we have to discover a heterogeneous structure that does justice to the differences that constitute everything that exists in the universe. If space-time is the fundamental duality constituting the heterogeneous structure of the universe, then every type of being in the universe must also be defined by a different space-time duality constituting its very nature. Let us start with our own heterogeneity rather than that of physical beings. In the case of human beings, we have already been fortunate enough to reveal the duality intrinsic to the human while carrying out our inquiry into the primordial question. Indeed, the simultaneous duality constituting human systems is none other than actuality-possibility. It could not be otherwise if the universe shares its space and time with the rest of the universe given that it has to be defined necessarily by the same simultaneous dualities that define everything that exists. If not, it would mean that the universe has a nature that differs from the nature of the rest of the universe which is logically impossible if the universe is everything that exists. Furthermore, actuality-­possibility is not as simple as it may appear. This simultaneous space-time duality results from crossing two simultaneous dualities that are intrinsic to human systems: the spatial inner-outer duality and the temporal present-future. However, to constitute a human system is not enough to be structured by the actuality-possibility duality because

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


Table 4.4  The heterogeneous structure of the universe Types of beings Human systems Cybernetic systems Living systems Physical systems

Spatial duality Inner-Outer Central-Peripheral Horizontal-Vertical Concentration-Dispersion

Temporal duality Present-Future Past-Present Origin-Past Direction-Origin

this type of beings overlaps with the intrinsic structure of other types of beings also defined by different space-time dualities (Table 4.4). Before clarifying these dualities further, I would like to highlight one aspect which only reveals itself after becoming familiar with the cybernetic world which I studied prior to undertaking the present investigation. I ended the former paragraph saying that the human world “overlaps with” the intrinsic structure of other worlds. Well, in the case of cybernetic systems, human systems completely overlap with their genuine structure. This does not mean, however, that both intrinsic structures are exactly the same and, thus, that they are defined by the same spatial and temporal duality. Instead, what I am saying is that we do not find a full structural overlapping between the cybernetic world and the living world, for instance, given that the organism and its environment are both part of the cybernetic system, whereas the environment is not part of the living system. Likewise, when it comes to the structural overlapping of the living world with the physical world, it is also complete. As to those dualities that might seem more mysterious, such as the spatial dualities intrinsic to cybernetic and to living systems, these have already been assumed by the corresponding domains of science (Appendix II). The central-peripheral duality coincides with the distinction in physiology between afferent-efferent pathways and receptors-effectors but also with the distinction between motivation and reflex processes in ethology. Physiology assumes that peripheral processes are prior to central processes and ethology the other way around. However, taken together, they are simultaneous processes because there is a functional relationship between the organism and its environment. In addition, the horizontal-vertical duality is also familiar to biologists who distinguish between horizontal and vertical evolution, that is, transformation and diversification of species, also known as phyletic and speciation processes. The spatial duality of physical systems is no mystery for physicists who are familiar with concentration and dispersion. However, they should not be understood as opposite tendencies within matter but as simultaneous processes constituting physical systems. Finally, as to the temporal dualities, except for one constituting physical systems, I believe that they are more intuitive. Indeed, the direction-origin duality may be the more enigmatic, but given that we have already learned that the universe always ‘goes to something’, that is, physical systems have a direction, and also that it ‘comes from itself’, that is, physical systems ‘go to something from themselves’ as they are the origin of that direction. Well, I have left for the end the origin-past duality which poses no mystery as it is, in fact, the new concept of time introduced by the current “cosmology” making possible the evolutionary synthesis in biology in the late 1930 and 1940s. And the past-present duality intrinsic to cybernetic systems


4  The Foundation of Utopics

is tell us that the last way of behaving becomes established when it reports success or satisfaction. The possibility-actuality simultaneous duality of humans systems will continue occupying us as we move closer to human science whose grounding depends on a new world-hypothesis making possible a new concept of human system that will be introduced at the end of this chapter. With what we have discovered so far, we can conclude our investigation of the fundamental question of how is the structure of everything possible by saying that everything that exists is constituted by the heterogeneous structure of the universe we have just discovered. These heterogeneous dualities, spatial and temporal, are the intrinsic “anatomy” of our self-determined universe. Now that we have found the general answer we were searching for, we can say more about the multiplicity of beings with which the universe shares its heterogeneous structure. The rest of the universe works together with other self-­determined systems with which they share the same intrinsic structure. But how is this possible? This is only possible if self-determined systems share the same level of organization because this is exactly what we mean when we say that different systems work together going to something. But for self-determined systems to “get to something”, it depends on self-determined systems doing different things at the same or at different levels of organization which are neither higher nor lower because the structure of the universe is not hierarchical. On the contrary, the different levels of organization share a relationship of mutual self-determination rather than a relationship of “autonomy in dependence” between “strata of reality”. Unlike Hartmann (1940), there is no unilateral dependence “from below”, in which lower strata are “autonomously predetermining”, nor determination “from above”, in which “higher categories are autonomous in relation to lower ones in what they have of their own (their novum)” (Ibid [1959]: 593). The different levels of organization shared by the different self-determined systems working together depend on their mutual self-­ determination in order to get to something. So we cannot accept Hartmann claim that “the inferior categories are in relation to the other strata always the strongest” nor that “free is only the weakest in relation to the strongest” meaning the higher strata are always the weakest because they depend on lower strata in relation to which they are autonomous (Ibid: 565–66). If this was the case, self-determination would only happen at a higher level of determination which is the old Western philosophical idea of a superior part, the soul, ruling over an inferior part, the body. The higher part depends on the lower part, indeed, but only “superior categories” are truly free. However, in our self-determined universe, all the levels of organization get to something by working together thanks to the mutual self-determination of different levels of organization shared by different self-determined systems. This brings to us the essential property defining systems: entanglement. If systems share spatial and temporal levels of organization working together to get to something, then they can only be, by definition, entangled systems. Lastly, we can specify further the properties that entangled systems share in common. First, entangled systems are not multiple, that is, plural, but singular. By this we mean that systems are not dual entities as we hear in quantum mechanics, the so-called wave-particle complementarity advocated by Niels Bohr. Second,

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


entangled systems are not passive entities moved by something external, that is, other-determined, because they go to something from themselves and thus are active systems. Third, systems are non-identical, since every entangled system is different from every other one system in the universe. Finally, entangled systems are non-­ continuous which means they do not necessarily go to the same thing because they can go to different things and hence they are discontinuous systems. Having discovered this concept of entangled systems (Fig. 4.1), the general answer to the second fundamental question of philosophy seems more complete. We have to continue working out further our new world-hypothesis which we could formulate in the following manner. Ours is a self-determined universe with a heterogeneous structure constituted by different simultaneous spatial and temporal dualities intrinsic to different types of entangled systems that share different self-determined levels of organization working together to get to something.

4.3.3  How Is Knowledge Possible? We started with the primordial question, the riddle of the world, and we have just answered the question of the structure of the world, but we cannot end our journey here because a third fundamental question is waiting for us, the question of knowledge: how is knowledge possible? So far, our philosophical inquiry has revealed how an entangled system is getting to something different by doing philosophy again from without the tradition that has shaped our thinking imagination for the Fig. 4.1  The properties of entangled systems Singular


Entangled Systems




4  The Foundation of Utopics

last two and a half millennia. That entangled system is not working alone, however, because it is questioning all the world-hypotheses from Plato (370 BC) to Hartmann (1940), that is, from the first to the last philosopher in the history of Western philosophy. Indeed, even if these human systems have never met before, they share the same self-determined level of organization which was now started to thinking differently. This goes to show that entangled systems are singular, active, different, and discontinuous. One wonders if a new world-hypothesis is what actually gives birth to a new civilization and if civilizations have and will always share the same self-­ determined level of organization. In the case of the Western civilization, it seems that the present entangled system is not working alone but shares the same self-­ determined level of organization that been stretching out spatially and moving forward temporality. In particular, the first world-hypothesis was born in Athens (Greece) in 370  BC spreading throughout the Greco-Roman world, the second word-hypothesis in Hippo (Algeria) in 426 AD reaching the Christian world, the third world-hypothesis in Leiden in 1637 (Holland) engulfing the growing Western world and the last world-hypothesis in Todtnauberg (Germany) in 1927. Who knows, maybe a new world-hypothesis giving birth to a new civilization will be will be born in the small municipality of Calonge (Spain) in 2020. Is this the same self-­ determined level of organization that has been thinking together with other civilizations since the cradle of the Western world? If so, Plato belonged to the first entangled system that thought together with other civilizations but differently and eventually constituted a new civilization with which the present entangled system has been thinking together with but differently. But is this entangled system that is thinking differently still the Western civilization? Why ‘western’, maybe because it thinks in a ‘western’ way? Can we call the new world-hypothesis ‘western’ if it does not think in a western way anymore? What is interesting about this entangled system is leaving behind the western way of thinking by thinking differently because it is the only way to get to something different which is what knowledge discovery is all about. The inquiry of this entangled system has now reached thought itself as its next fundamental question which it could not answer before discovering the intrinsic “anatomy” of the universe. Furthermore, this entangled system now realizes that we and only we are the only entangled systems in the universe that can discover knowledge as such because knowledge is only possible for us, human systems. Again, the logical connection between the first and the second question is also the case between the second and the third question. This shows that our new world-hypothesis is gradually accumulating a body of philosophical knowledge without which any further progress would be impossible. At first it might seem obvious that knowledge is only possible for human systems given that rationality has always been conceived as something intrinsic to their special nature. And, as we have seen, the birth of philosophy is generally portrayed as the “transition from myth to reason”, and, taking Plato’s (367 B.C) analogy of the divided line, the quest for wisdom is seen as a transition from opinion to knowledge only made possible by the rational part of the soul. Likewise, for Augustine, the human being was created in the image of God giving him an intelligent soul not

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


granted to animals which were subjected to the passions of the body. Then, in the hands of Descartes, the mind was made into thinking subject that, unlike animals, could perceive clear and distinct ideas such as that it was a thinking thing and that the body was an extended thing. And Husserl made thinking an act of consciousness that entered a new region of being not accessible to animal nature. What started as a part of the soul enabling knowledge became eventually a self-subsistent sphere of being detachable from the rest of the universe. To put it differently, it was a transition from an embodied soul to a disembodied consciousness, which was the last logical implication of Descartes’ Subject-Object dualism defining the modern world-hypothesis. Prior to that, Augustine had defined the human being as a unity of soul and body, but with Descartes that was no longer possible because the nature of the thinking subject did not require the nature of the body to define itself. As we know, all fundamental dualisms split the universe into opposing regions of being, the One as opposed to the Many, the Visible as opposed to the Invisible, the Subject as opposed to the Object, and Nature as opposed to the Spirit. In contrast, our self-­ determined universe is constituted by a heterogeneous structure defined by a space-­ time fundamental duality that does not split the intrinsic “anatomy” of the universe, and, hence, our “anthropology” is not separated from our “cosmology”. If this is so, for knowledge discovery to happen, human systems depend on the intrinsic structure they share with cybernetic systems. So rather than downplaying or ignoring the animal with its environment as an inferior or misleading part, the answer to the question of knowledge depends on a clear understanding of what a cybernetic system is. First, we should start by saying that the intrinsic “anatomy” of the universe lacks what has come to be seen as psychic being, that is, there is no psychic stratum in the heterogeneous structure of the universe corresponding to “animal nature”. In saying so, I am questioning the “psychophysical division” assumed by both Husserl and Hartmann. For Husserl (1925, 1952), Nature included material and animal nature constituting psychophysical unities, “bodies with as soul”, whereas, for Hartmann, the “personal spirit” was constituted by both psychic and spiritual being because consciousness belongs to the higher strata of reality. In any case, the psychic stratum was described as “a stream, with no beginning or end, of lived experiences” (Ibid [1989]: 98). And consciousness as not being “something of nature (as state of an animal); it is absolutely non-spatial” (Ibid: 187). Therefore, both assumed that the psychic stratum or consciousness is the realm of inner experiences which are non-material and non-spatial. In order to surpass “psychologism”, Husserl postulated a realm of pure consciousness not belonging to animal nature, whereas Hartmann (1933) identified “spiritual contents”, separable from consciousness, with the “objective spirit”: The separation of the contents of the person is something fundamental to the spiritual life. It differs radically from the mere psychic life. Psychologically, the act and the content are an inseparable whole. This is the reason why the true spiritual content cannot be grasped psychologically. (Ibid [2007]: 249)


4  The Foundation of Utopics

The eventual assimilation of the psychophysical division within the current worldhypothesis resulted in the “psycho-spiritual division” in which the access to “objective meanings” did not depend on animal nature. But what if the mind-body division, already implicit in Plato’s tripartite division of the soul, was an illusion? What if human systems are not really unities of soul and body, as Augustine thought? Then, there would be no need to separate the mind from the body and argue that knowledge results from an act of consciousness. Instead, if we want to do justice to the heterogeneous structure of the universe we have just discovered, we have to accept that the whole anatomy of the universe works together. Therefore, it makes no sense to argue that one part of the human being, the rational part, works alone when it comes to knowledge discovery and that the other part, “animalia” cannot apprehend “objective meanings” which are independent from psychophysical nature. Instead of holding on tight to this prejudice, let us enter the cybernetic world to do justice to this type of entangled systems and to ourselves since we share their intrinsic structure making knowledge possible. Cybernetic systems are not psychophysical unities with two types of “real experiences” as Husserl (1925, 1952) thought: physical experiences accessed through the body and psychical experiences by means of the soul. “Each of these experiences is foundational for corresponding experiential sciences: the one for the sciences of material nature and the other for psychology as science of the soul” (Ibid [1989]: 133). No, cybernetic systems are entangled systems in which the organism and its environment are one functionally dependent system. Therefore, we cannot separate the organism from its environment because they are functionally related by an information circuit on which the stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment depends. We can study the cybernetic world physiologically, psychologically, and ethologically but what we observe in every free or intact organism, that is, one that is not deprived of its central nervous system, is that the animal is never separate from its environment. In particular, the organism either responds to stimuli from its environment by recognizing a perceptual pattern or satisfies “appetence” by releasing a behavioural pattern with stimuli from its environment. In both cases, the fact of noticing something and going to something comes from the cybernetic systems itself. And those perceptual patterns are not mental images in the brain but stimuli configurations from the environment recognized by organism. Therefore, strictly speaking, there are no internal as opposed to external experiences because the brain is never separate from its environment. Assuming so implies postulating a “psychophysical parallelism” implicit in the Subject-Object dualism of the modern world-hypothesis. Instead, what the spatial dualism intrinsic to cybernetic systems is telling us is just the opposite, we cannot separate central from peripheral processes, as Descartes did when he discovered the thinking subject. From that moment, stimuli became internal objects in the mind corresponding to external objects in the world. So the Subject-Object dualism resulted in the postulation of what we could call the Consciousness-World chasm assumed by modern and contemporary philosophy. This Great Abyss is, in fact, the denial of central-peripheral simultaneous duality constituting the cybernetic world. Again, the way forward is to forget Descartes’ answer to the question

4.3  A New World-Hypothesis


of knowledge because it contradicts the intrinsic “anatomy” of the universe we have already discovered and to continue doing philosophy anew. Now that we have a concept of what a cybernetic system is, we also have to question Husserl’s concept of experience. An experience is not equal to an object given in consciousness because a subject is not “conscious of something” in the sense of having an experience of something, either a mere factual object (external or internal experience) or a “full intentional object” (pure experience). In assuming so, everything that is given in consciousness becomes a “correlate of consciousness” that belongs to a “new Object-province” independent from “matters of fact”. This meant no only paralleling the real world (Nature) with natural objects exemplifying “realities”, but also including in that region other intentional objects not corresponding to any actual facts. In other words, the subject can apprehend something “posited” by “pure consciousness” without necessarily being something really existing such as “ideal objects” (abstract objects) or even “mere phantasy” (fictional objects). In order to distinguish pure experiences from ordinary experiences, Husserl (1913) describes them as “a kind of givenness in which essences are given originally as objects entirely in the same way as individual realities are given in experiential intuition” (Ibid [1983]: 39). But how is it possible to see two different things by looking at the same thing, a real reality and a natural object exemplifying that reality? The only way to do so is by opening a “new field of experience” that comes from changing the way in which we experience things. According to Husserl (1925, 1952), it “becomes possible only by way of a radical transformation of that attitude in which natural, mundane experience runs its course” (Ibid [1989]: 408). I think he was trying to distinguish the act of thinking from experiencing. Indeed, to think something is different from experiencing something but, strictly speaking, the former is not a different form of the latter. He was right in believing that in experiencing different things, we can recognize a perceptual pattern or stimuli configuration but this not equivalent to “seeing” a pure essence. Experience as such corresponds to the factual patterns recognized by cybernetic systems. In using the word “factual”, I mean that the organism recognizes stimuli configurations from its environment. Therefore, in experiencing something, we cannot separate an act of consciousness (brain) from its present stimulus (environment) and argue that we can have pure experiences not corresponding to actual facts. This means that our experience of empirical facts comes from the intrinsic structure we share with cybernetic systems, namely, the spatial (central-periphery) and temporal (past-present) dualities. However, as we know, empirical facts are not the only type of matters of fact since pure facts are also actual facts we cannot observe but can assume as being the case. Though actual facts make knowledge possible, matters of fact are not knowledge as such. No matter how many empirical facts we collect and how many experiments or observations we carry out, experience alone is not sufficient for knowledge discovery. To explain how knowledge is possible, the third fundamental question of philosophy, we need to understand how our intrinsic structure transforms matters of fact into knowledge. As we remember, human systems are spatially and temporally constituted by the inner-outer and present-future dualities defining our intrinsic


4  The Foundation of Utopics

structure. These two dualities can be crossed into one single spatial-temporal duality: the outer-present (actuality)-inner-future (possibility) duality. So we, human systems, are fundamentally constituted by the actuality-possibility. Furthermore, our intrinsic constitution is not separate from but overlaps with the intrinsic constitution of the rest of the universe. This can only imply that the human constitution in not working alone but working together with the intrinsic “anatomy” that it shares with cybernetic, biological, and physical systems. In other words, our constitution is not decoupled from the cybernetic simultaneous dualities because actuality, for instance, overlaps with both the spatial (central-peripheral) and temporal (present-­ past) dualities. However, as we know, actuality is not reducible to empirical facts alone because it also includes pure facts we do not observe and possibility is also absent from cybernetic world since organisms are in a stable equilibrium with their environment. So how is knowledge possible then? Well, the general answer is because of the coincidence of possible ideas and actual facts, that is, because of the simultaneity of the actuality-possibility duality. This is not something that happens easily, no matter how well the human and cybernetic constitution work together, because to discover knowledge, we need to think differently in order to come up with possible ideas that explain actual facts. Possible ideas are not something strange since we have already become familiar with them when discussing the domains of our two different fundamental forms of thought: theory (science) and world-hypothesis (philosophy). Furthermore, now we can understand better in what sense science and philosophy are different forms of knowledge. Philosophy goes from actual facts to the possible ideas and science from possible ideas to actual facts, and, in doing so, our thinking imagination might discover either philosophical or scientific knowledge. In the case of science, knowledge discovery consist in developing theories that are able to explain how physical, biological, or cybernetic systems work by deducing from them actual facts which we could observe if those possible hypothesis are true. This immediately brings to mind another question, how is human science possible? That is, is human science possible in the same way as the rest of science is possible? Indeed, in human science we can also discover the “laws” explaining how the human world works and deduce facts from possible hypotheses. However, the simultaneity of the actuality-possibility duality that happens when we discover knowledge in every domain of science does not exhaust the human world. Even if we can deduce how the human world works we cannot predict everything. Why? Because, in addition to the possible hypotheses that explain how the human world works and from which we can deduce actual observations, there are actual facts we cannot deduce from the human sciences. This why I say that human science does not exhaust the human world but, by saying so, I not mean to say that the actuality-possibility duality only applies partly to the human world. On the contrary, the human duality applies fully to the human world. So fully that the human world is actually constituted by ideas that we recognize as a matter of fact, and this suggests that those ideas were once only thought as possible before becoming actual facts. In other words, in addition to the actual facts deducible from the possible ideas discoverable by the human sciences, the human world is constituted by


4.3  A New World-Hypothesis

realized ideas. This goes to show how fundamentally constitutive is the actuality-­ possibility duality of the human world. Now we can also answer the particular question of how is human science possible. The possibility of human science depends on the constitution of the human world because the “human laws” we can discover only apply to a world constituted by realized ideas. And this answer suggests another obvious question. Who realizes those ideas that were only thought as possible before becoming actual facts? Utopic systems! So if human science studies the utopic world, can we not name that new domain of science utopics? I do not see why not if the human world studied by science is constituted by realized ideas that were once only thought as possible utopias before becoming an actual reality. We have just discovered the demarcation between neo-cybernetics and utopics given that only the human world is constituted by realized ideas. Furthermore, the utopic world has some kind of heterogeneity similar to the one found in the recurring world of stimuli configurations recognized by cybernetic systems. There are some stimuli from the environment that vary in intensity or duration following a difference in degree picked up by the general senses. But there are other stimuli corresponding to differences in kind recognized by the special senses for which the organism has specialized organs: vision, hearing, smell, and taste. Similarly, when we look at the utopic world, we can also recognize an analogous heterogeneity constituting its different essential aspects. Those differences in kind are the different types of realized ideas that constitute the human world which are already anticipating the demarcation within human science (Fig. 4.2). In summary, the general answer to the question of knowledge has resulted in the particular question of how human science is possible whose particular answer has revealed what defines the domain of human science: realized ideas. And realized ideas are not all of the same kind because the human world is not homogenously








Fig. 4.2  The domain of human science



4  The Foundation of Utopics

constituted. Furthermore, this last philosophical discovery shows something unusual not seen in our previous philosophical inquiry. We have been able to infer a particular answer from looking at the heterogeneity of the human world and recognizing that it is constituted by different types of realized ideas which is something we observe as being the case. However, this does not imply that the domain of human science belongs to the domain of philosophy because, in searching for “laws” that apply to the human world, scientists deduce actual facts from possible hypotheses rather than the other way around.

4.4  A New Concept of Human System I will devote the rest of this chapter to work out a new concept of human system made possible by our new world-hypothesis postponing the last fundamental question of philosophy to the last chapter of this book. Indeed, the main purpose of this book, the unification of human science, is suggesting the way forward. We cannot investigate the question of the foundation of science in general until utopics is grounded, and we cannot discuss the prehistory of human science until we compare the different concepts of human system, made possible by the different Western world-hypothesis, with the new concept of human system. When thinking about the ill-defined sphere of human studies, I noticed something unusual that had not happened in other domains of science. Newton (1687), for instance, furnished his own concept of physical system in keeping with Descartes’ world-hypothesis. Likewise, Darwin (1859) also assumed a concept of biological system which partially compatible with the modern thinking imagination. In contrast, Ashby (Appendix II) defined the cybernetic system as something totally incompatible with the current world-hypothesis. Unlike the first case, the other two cases were lacking a concept of the system they were investigating derived from a world-hypothesis. But this did not prevent Darwin and Ashby from making scientific discoveries even though they fell short of bringing forth a new scientific synthesis in their own time. Indeed, all of these three domains of science, physics, biology, and neo-cybernetics, had figure out a concept of the type of system they were investigating system regardless of whether world-hypothesis was on their side or not. However, as we will see in the next chapter, the concepts of human system were always derived from Western world-hypotheses though, unlike the other domains of science, they never grounded human science as such. We may have doubts at this point on whose business is to define the concept of human system. Does it belong to the domain of science or maybe to philosophy? In deciding so, should we follow the history of science or that of Western philosophy? I do not think it really matters who provides that concept of human system as long as it is compatible with our new world-hypothesis. The moment in which this doubt appears is not random as it happened after answering the question of how is knowledge possible. It seems that the philosophy and science have started to converge in the journey towards human knowledge. This is suggesting that in the last fundamental question

4.4  A New Concept of Human System


of philosophy, they will come close to each other in working together in the quest for truth. What are utopic systems? Well, according to their very nature, these are self-­ determined systems constituted by the simultaneous actuality-possibility duality. However, we need to specify further this particular type of entangled system. Maybe we can start with the possibility aspect of human systems by saying that, like all genuine dualities, the possible is not something opposed to the actual. On the contrary, these members of the duality are simultaneous because what constitutes the human world today (realized ideas) was something possible (possible ideas) before being actual (actual facts). In addition, the opposite of being possible is being impossible rather than being actual. So is it clear that the actual order of the human world is not the opposite of a possible order because before becoming a realized actual order, it was a non-realized possible order or utopia rather than an impossible order or chimera; otherwise it would have never been realized in the human world. Possibility, however, cannot be reduced to what has become the actual order, that is, the outer and the present, as doing so would mean reducing the possible to the actual. Possibility, as we remember, results from crossing the two other members of the spatial and temporal dualities intrinsic to human systems, that is, the inner and the future. Taken together, they are telling something fundamental about utopic systems. Human systems look into the future, not in the sense of anticipating the future as something recurring, as cybernetic systems do all the time, but as something possible, something that could be the case even if it has never been so far. It is not that human systems do not have foresight or that they are not able to anticipate the future based on what has already happened in the past, as this is something that we share with cybernetic systems. But looking into the future is different from looking at the present from the past, the past-present temporal dimension intrinsic to cybernetic systems. Furthermore, this looking into the future as something possible is neither wishful thinking nor a prophecy but something defining our thinking imagination itself. We are getting closer to what a utopic system is. The human world is the child of the thinking imagination of utopic systems that work together to realize something possible. That something possible originating in our thinking imagination is what constitutes our heterogeneous human world, particularly, the different types of realizable ideas: economic goods, moral values, legal norms, and aesthetic appearances. Once these possible ideas have been realized by utopic systems, they become our recurring human world with which we are in a stable equilibrium. This is where the utopic world overlaps with the cybernetic world in which there is always a stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Indeed, entangled human systems are also in a stable equilibrium with their recurring world. In the case of the cybernetic world, the recurring world is constituted by those stimuli that cybernetic systems have learned to recognize in order to maintain a stable equilibrium, that is, adaptive behaviour. Analogously, in the case of the utopic world, their recurring world is constituted by those realized ideas that human systems have accepted to live according to. But there is one big difference, utopic systems can change the “stimuli” recognized by human systems and, hence, their “recurring” world. In


4  The Foundation of Utopics

other words, utopic systems can choose a different world rather than accept their recurring world as a given. Maybe we can say something more about why utopic systems do not accept their recurring world and work together to realize something different. Surely, our thinking imagination can suggest many different worlds; some of which are unrealizable chimeras, but others might be realizable utopias. So what is the difference? Indeed, they both look into the future as something different, but the former thinking imagination does not take into account the actual human world when looking at the future as something possible. If it did so, it would soon realize that it is thinking something impossible. Furthermore, those utopic systems working together to bring forth another possible world also realize that what they are doing is something important and far from wishful thinking; otherwise they would have already given up pursuing their dreams. But, on the contrary, they persist in working together to realize something possible against all odds. Of course, this does not mean that they never fail when working for something important because they can fail many times before they can realize something possible. So what is that something important for which utopic systems are ready to work for? The answer is related to those same types of realizable ideas as they are the most essential things that constitute the human world. Indeed, utopic systems work for different but equally fundamental things: plenty, justice, goodness, and beauty. And, therefore, utopic systems are never satisfied with living in a human world in which those things are missing if their activity could make a difference. We will say more about that activity in dealing with the fundamental problem of utopics in Chap. 7. At last, we have discovered the new concept of human system behind the new world-hypothesis that will inform utopics or the science of utopic systems. However, tracing the origin of that new domain of science, as a different chapter in the history of science, will have to wait until we can close the next chapter on the prehistory of human science.

References Ashby, W. R. (1956) [1957]. An introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman & Hall. Augustine (426 AD) [1913]. The city of god. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Bohr, N (1927) (Unpublished) The Quantum Postulate and the Recent Development of Atomic Theory. In: Niels Bohr Collected Works (2008): Foundations of Quantum Physics I (1926–1932), vol. 6. Amsterdam: North-Holland Physics Publishing. Born, M (1926). Zur Quantenmechanik der Stoßvorgänge. Zeitschrift für Physik 37 (12): 863–867. Carnap, R. (1950). Empiricism, semantics, and ontology. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 4, 20–40. Carnap, R. (1963) [1997]. The philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, the library of living philosophers (Vol. 11). Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company. Cassirer, E. (1944). An essay on man: An introduction to the philosophy of culture. New Haven: Yale University Press. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species. London: John Murray.



Descartes, R. (1637) [1913]. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and of seeking truth in the sciences. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. Dooyeweerd, H. (1935–1936) [2013]. A new critique of theoretical thought. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. Frege, G. (1893–1903). Grundgesetze der Arithmetik. Jena: Verlag Hermann Pohle. Hanson, N. R. (1958) [1965]. Patterns of discovery: An inquiry into the conceptual foundations of science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Hartmann, N. (1933) [2007]. El Problema Del Ser Espiritual. Investigaciones para la fundamentación de la filosofía de la historia y de las ciencias del espíritu. Buenos Aires: Leviatán. Hartmann, N. (1940) [1959]. Ontologia III. La Fábrica del Mundo Real. México D. F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Hartmann, N. (1949) [1961]. Introducción a la filosofía. México D.  F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Heisenberg, W (1927). Über den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik. Zeitschrift für Physik 43 (3–4):172–198. Heidegger, M. (1927) [2001]. Being and time. London: Blackwell. Husserl, E. (1913) [1983]. Ideas pertaining to a Pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: General introduction to a pure phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1925, 1952) [1989]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: Studies in the phenomenology of constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Husserl, E. (1931) [1960]. Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1936) [1970]. The crisis of the European Sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Kant, E. (1781/1787) [1901]. Critique of pure reason. New York: P.F. Collier and Son. Kuhn, T. (1962) [1996]. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press. Mayr, E. (1982). The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution and diversity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Newton, I. (1687). Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. London: S. Pepys, Reg. Soc. Praeses. Plato. (367 BC) [1971]. Republic. London: Heron Books. Plato. (370 BC) [1997]. Plato’s Parmenides. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. Popper, K. (1934, 1959) [2005]. The logic of scientific discovery. London/New York: Routledge. Quine, W. V. (1951). On Carnap’s views on ontology. Philosophical Studies, 2(5), 65–72. Quine, W. V. (1953). Mr. Strawson on logical theory. Mind, 62(248), 433–451. Quine, W. V. (1960) [2013]. World and object. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Quine, W. V. (1969). Ontological relativity & other essays. New York: Columbia University Press. Ros, A. (1992). Ontologies de la finitud, Tesis Doctoral. Bellaterra: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Russell B, Whitehead A.N. (1910–1913). Principia Mathematica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Scheler, M. (1928) [2001]. El puesto del hombre en el cosmos. Librodot. Schopenhauer, A. (1844). Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus. Schrödinger, E. (1926). Quantisierung als Eigenwertproblem. Annalen der Physik 384 (4): 273–376. Schrödinger, E. (1952). Our image of matter. In W. Heisenberg et al. (Eds.), (1961) On modern physics. New York: Collier Books. Wittgenstein, L. (1921). Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In W.  Ostwald (Ed.), Annalen der Naturphilosophie (Vol. 14, pp. 185–262). Wittgenstein, L. (1970) [1980]. Culture and value. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Chapter 5

The Prehistory of Human Science

5.1  The Rebirth of a New Civilization? It is time to take some breath to see where this philosophical journey has taken us so far. We started with the fundamental questions of philosophy whose answers resulted in the different world-hypotheses developed in the history of Western philosophy, and we finished with the discovery of a new world-hypothesis from without that same tradition. Strictly speaking, we are not behind the Western world altogether because the present utopic system has been thinking together with but differently from other entangled systems that also share a common spatial and temporary ancestry with Classical Athens. More importantly, this new way of thinking has led to a new world-hypothesis making possible a new concept of human system which is now displaying one of the fundamental attributes that all systems in the universe have in common, discontinuity. Our rhetorical question is clear: are we still thinking in a Western way if our thinking imagination has left behind that traditional way of thinking? Well, this chapter is a good place to show how far our thinking imagination has been shaped by Western world-hypotheses and to compare the corresponding concepts of human system with the new concept of utopic system we have discovered behind the new world-hypothesis. But the rhetorical question remains: is the new concept of utopic system speaking of a human civilization born anew? Is this not a new utopic civilization that shares the same level of organization thinking together with, but now differently from, the Western civilization? If world-hypothesis is what determines the way of thinking within a human civilization, we should be able to see how a given world-hypothesis has shaped the logical possibilities open to the entangled human systems belonging to the same civilization. In the case of the present age, we should expect to see how the prevailing world-hypothesis has shaped the way in which we conceive the history of the cultural world. As we know from Husserl, the human world, which includes the scientific products of the Spirit such as mathematics and natural science, is also © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_5



5  The Prehistory of Human Science

constituted by the cultural products that change with time. And, thus, a history of the cultural products is thus a logical possibility within the current “cosmology”. In fact, Mannheim (1923–1928) can be seen as the first exponent of this way of thinking applied to sociology, in which “historic-cultural” knowledge is socially constituted by the conflict of world postulates shared by different “social groups who want to make their interpretation of the world the universal one” (Ibid [1952]: 197). Indeed, this logical possibility has also determined how some historians of sociology have framed the history of Social Thought from Lore to Science, to use the title of the comprehensive history of “social science” written by Becker and Barnes (1938). In keeping with the prevailing “cosmology”, their first volume starts with the “social thought of preliterate peoples”, that is, prelinguistic people, as a prologue to the second volume on the birth of sociology, “the basic social science”. This, of course, poses a problem when “lore” does not fit “science”: The history of social thought is almost inextricably bound up with the history of political thought as traditionally received. The reason for this lies in the fact that there has been a general failure, down to relatively recent times, to distinguish clearly between the state and society. (Ibid [1961]: xxii)

Interestingly, one of the authors, Becker, explains that he got acquainted with the sociology of knowledge while writing the work and that he would had applied this “mode of analysis” more systematically if he had discovered it earlier acknowledging that “the social thought of Plato and of Aristotle […] stands in need of more intensive treatment from the standpoint of sociology of knowledge” (Ibid: 215). In addition, they also argue that “the attempts to justify resistance to royal authority” in the late sixteenth century “are the precursors of the revolutionary wing of the social contract” (Ibid: 340) without realizing that Hobbes’s (1642, 1651) original contract was, in fact, an idea made logically possible in the mid-seventeenth century by the modern world-hypothesis. Lastly, when they claim that Hume anticipates the last chapter before the birth of sociology by refuting the idea of the social contract, these historians of sociology do not realize that the concept of human system that was introduced into sociology by Tönnies (1887) came in fact from Hobbes, the father of the concept of civil society, for whom the state and society were one and the same thing state. Leaving aside how they use the term “science”, this example shows us how the prevalent world-hypothesis entered not only the history of natural science, as we saw with Koyré (1939), but also of Social Thought from Lore to Science (1938) around the same time. Accordingly, the history of the cultural products of the Spirit was shaped by the “cosmology” founded by Husserl-Heidegger (1927). Likewise, once we learn about its corresponding “anthropology”, the symbolic animal, at the end of this chapter, it will introduce the possibility of composing different but equally valid stories of ourselves. By that time, we will have become familiar not with the history of the social sciences but with the history of the primary concepts informing those spheres of knowledge: civil society, human mind, utilitarian action, and human species. And once we have left behind the prehistory of human science, we will be prepared to appreciate the birth of a new domain of science informed by a new concept of human system, the utopic system.

5.2  Plato’s City-State


5.2  Plato’s City-State Now that we know when and where the Western way of thinking was born, in the early fourth century BC in Plato’s Academy, we can begin the prehistory of human science with his concept of human system, the city-state, corresponding to his world-hypothesis, the sensible world. According to him, the sensible world is intelligibly constituted by immutable ideas which give being to the many of things in the universe in as much as they participate in their essence which they exemplify. In other words, everything in the sensible world, including the human world, has an intelligible structure constituted by immutable ideas. In particular, the multiple Greek city-states (polis) in the sensible world participate in one immutable idea, the ideal polis, which exemplifies many ideas. That is, the multiple city-states exemplify one ideal city-state which, in turn, is constituted by many ideas which are mutually related somehow. And it is in Plato’s Republic (c. 367 BC) where we see how this new way of thinking derives a new concept of human system according to the logical possibilities within by the first “cosmology”. So what is that ideal city-state immanent to the human world? We can find how he works out that concept in a dialogue that starts in Book II after the discussion of whether it is better to live a just or unjust life. Plato, of course, tries to convince his audience that to live according to justice is better life, and, to do so, he proceeds by distinguishing between different types of goods we can aim to achieve in life. First we have those goods that we value in them themselves, that is, independently from the effects they produce such as “joy” or any other non-durable but unharmful pleasures. Then there are those goods that we value them in themselves and are useful such as “intelligence, sight, or health”. And, finally, we have those goods that we value not for their own sake, as they can be a burden to our life, but for the sake of other things we gain from them such as “gymnastics”. Obviously, justice belongs to the second kind, the goods that make us happy. However, this is not the prevailing opinion which considers justice as a burden which is only worth the trouble when it brings “benefits and good reputation” to the people that only appear to be just. Thus, Plato will have to find a better way to argue in favour of living a life in accordance to justice which at first it might seem something that we are not ready to pursue for its own sake but for the sake of something else. Rather than comparing justice with other types of goods, he wants to discover why we should consider it intrinsically valuable regardless of “the honours and rewards” we might gain from living a just life. To do so, he will start with “the origin and nature of justice” to demonstrate that “injustice is the greatest of evils that the soul contains within herself, and justice the greatest good” (367e). But how is the investigation of justice possible? Well, though it is something we find in the human world both in men and in cities, it is better to start with the city as “justice may exist in greater proportions […] and be easier to discover” (368e). While looking at the “city in the making, should we not see its justice and injustice in the making also?” (369a). Plato assumes that the city-state and the individual share one and the same structure because they participate in the same immutable ideas though they are different things.


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

So let us witness how a city-state comes into being in the hands of Plato. “The origin of a city […] is, my opinion, due to the fact that no one of us is sufficient for himself, but each is in need of many things” (369b). Since we alone cannot produce everything that we need to live because we depend on may other things produced by other people, it seems likely that the first human settlement resulted from the need to satisfy the needs of many people living together in the same place. Otherwise what could bring together different people to found a city if it was not their mutual dependence for survival? Indeed, the mutual interest in the things produced by different people to cover “our needs” is what, according to Plato, originates the first city. Of course, this implies that a city has an economy providing different goods produced by different individuals that are then exchanged to meet everyone’s needs. Among these, “the first and greatest of our needs is the provision of food to support existence and life”, then comes “the provision of a dwelling-place”, and later “clothing, and so on” (369d). But to provide such an amount of basic needs for life, we require that people specialize in doing different things rather than everyone doing all sorts of things. If so, who should produce what? Well, “in the first place, no two of us are by nature altogether alike. Our capacities differ. Some are fit for one work, some for another” (370a). Hence, people should produce what they are most gifted at given that more people will benefit from that skill and, thus, they should make a living from it rather than waste time with other occupations for which they do not have a natural talent. This emerging economy, however, requires that the things which different people produce are exchanged by other things if we want our economy to be more than merely a self-sufficient household of “four or five men”. Thus, a trader class is necessary because not every household can produce everything it needs to survive, so someone should be in charge of exchanging the surplus production within the city. Then money will be required as a means of exchange to buy and sell that production in the marketplace. But this will not be enough to satisfy all the needs of people in the city because there are some jobs which require “bodily strength” that nobody will want to do unless someone pays them a wage “for hard labour” and, thus, the city will need “hired labourers” who will sell their force. We have grown up the city to the point in which it can cover the basic needs of its people. “Then, where in it shall we find justice and injustice?” Well, if our city can satisfy the needs of its inhabitants, it will be a “city of health”, but as soon as it wants more than it needs to survive and becomes a “luxurious city”, injustice will enter the city because it will be too small to be self-sufficient and will need to “take a slice from our neighbours’ territory” which will inevitably result in “war”. Accordingly, Plato’s has reached the first conclusion in his investigation of justice. Plenty is one of the immutable ideas that constitute the ideal city-state without which it will be a “luxurious city”. If so, the city has to grow to an optimal size to cover the mutual needs of its citizens and avoid the “reckless pursuit of wealth”, “those passions which are most responsible for all the evils that come upon cities and the men that dwell in them” (373c). Furthermore, to defend city’s wealth and “fight the invaders”, the city will have to grow bigger to be able to host “a whole army”, the guardian class, which, like with every other occupation in the city, these people will have to be naturally fit in

5.2  Plato’s City-State


order to be able to protect a healthy city. Besides having the right skills for the job, “the guardians of the city” will have to have the right nature, “the proper character” – particularly, they have to be “brave” in terms of body and “spirited” in terms of soul. However, good warriors cannot be brutal and cruel with everyone since they must be “gentle to their fellows and fierce to their enemies” (375c) which, of course, are “opposite qualities” that are not easily found in humans but they are far from being contrary to nature. Indeed, we see them in animals such as well-bred dogs which are gentle to their owners and fierce to strangers. But that proper character can only be nurtured accordingly if the city has the right education system consisting of “gymnastics for the body, and music for the soul”. The guardians have to start with “music” by which Plato meant art in general. However, not every kind of art would be part of the curricula; dangerous literature had to be excluded, especially “all stories of gods making war on or plotting against or fighting other gods” because “those who are to guard our city must think it the most deadly sin to quarrel easily with one another” (378c): Then we must speak to our poets and compel them to impress upon their poems only the image of the good, or not to make poetry in our city. And we must speak to the other artists and forbid them to leave the impress of that which is evil in character, unrestrained, mean and ugly, on their imitations of living creatures, or their houses, or on any other object of their art. (401b)

But Plato was not against art per se given that beauty was another immutable idea that constituted the ideal city-state. “No, we must seek out those artists who have the happy gift of tracing out the nature of the beautiful and graceful”, so that their art leads our guardians “from their earliest years into likeness and friendship and harmony with the idea of beauty” (401d). Indeed, an artistic education should prepare them to appreciate true works of art and natural beauty and to hate what is ugly, “for music surely ought to end with the love of the beautiful” (403c). After nurturing their young soul with music, the guardians need body training, that is, gymnastics, because only “a good soul by its virtues makes the body as good as it can be” (403d). This is where the idea of harmony between the mutually opposing qualities of guardians enters the picture. They have to be able to harmonize simultaneously being “fierce and spirited” and “soft and gentle”, and when that happens we can say that their soul is “both temperate and brave” and, when not, “coward and boorish”. According to Plato, that mutual harmony is achieved with music and gymnastics. “Their purpose is to tune these two elements into harmony with one another by slackening or tightening, till the proper pitch is reached” (412a). Lastly, who are the people that should rule in the perfect city-state? Well, surely, the most “intelligent and capable” among the older guardians will have that duty, the ruling class. Besides being the “best of the older men”, this selected class will have already excelled in “doing zealously whatever they thought was for the city’s interest, and in refusing resolutely to do what they thought was to its harm” (412e). After bringing into being an ideal city-state that covers the mutual needs of its members, protects its citizens from voluptuous invaders desirous of unlimited wealth, and governs itself, Plato is now approaching the climax in his investigation


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

of the nature of justice. Indeed, if that city “has being rightly established”, it “is perfectly good” in as much as each class lives according to virtue: the governing class according to prudence, the warriors to courage, and all its citizens to temperance. If so, goodness is the other immutable idea constituting the being of the perfect city. But it is not the last one, because if a good city is “wise, and brave, and temperate”, then it must also be just. Indeed, and this is Plato’s conclusion, a city lives according to justice when each part follows its nature, that is, “that each individual should pursue the work in this city for which his nature was naturally most fitted” (433a). Therefore, “a city is just when the three types of natures in it do each their own work” (435b). In other words, the city-state participates in the idea of justice when each class does what is most fitted to do by nature and, in so doing, both the individual and the city will live according to justice. How can he support this bold statement? Well, though the individual and the city are different things, Plato finds a logical correspondence between the three classes in the city and the three parts of the soul: the rulers and the rational part, the guardians and the spirited part, and the traders and the appetitive part. In his own words: Then is it not befitting that the rational part should rule, inasmuch as it is wise and has foresight for the whole soul, and that the spirited part should be its subject and ally? […] following its ruler, and bravely executing its purposes? […] Further, do we not call him temperate by reason of the friendship and harmony of these elements, when the ruler and the two subjects are agreed that the rational element must rule, and there is no rebellion against it? (442bcd)

However, these parallel structures do not coincide with the intelligible structure that the individual and the city-state share in common. No, that correspondence is used to justify that they both participate in the idea of justice, but, in fact, the individual also participates in the other immutable ideas that constitute the city-state. In the case of plenty, the individual and the city exemplify that idea by growing to an optimal size that does not “overpass the bounds of necessity”. In addition, the mutual harmony between the opposing qualities of the guardians of the city, gentle and fierce, is due to the mutual harmony between the rational and the spirited parts of the soul, “the good and noble guardians of the city will be by nature philosophical and spirited” (376c). Furthermore, with structure of the soul, Plato seems to suggest the mutual harmony between all the elements of the soul which could correspond to the participation in the idea of beauty. Next, since there is a logical correspondence between the structure of the soul and the structure of the city, there is also a logical correspondence between the parts of the soul and the virtues intrinsic to each class. Indeed, the rational part has to be wise, the spirited part has to have courage, and the appetitive part has to show temperance, and, by living according to virtue, the individual will exemplify the idea of goodness. Lastly, to participate in the idea of justice, one part of the soul must rule, the rational part, and the other parts must follow its orders, and, in doing so, the unity of the whole is maintained. Now, what can we say about this first concept of human system made possible by the first world-hypothesis? Well, besides being a logical possibility within the new way of thinking, it brought to light the things that matter to and for which utopic

5.2  Plato’s City-State


systems are ready to work for to constitute the human world: plenty, beauty, goodness, and justice. Indeed, he introduced them in this same order because to participate in the idea of justice assumes that the city-state has a self-sufficient economy, that its classes are in mutual harmony, and that its citizens live according to virtue. These are the necessarily conditions for a city-state to become a self-subsisting unity exemplifying the idea of Justice. In other words, to participate in the idea of justice, the city-state has to participate in the ideas of plenty, beauty, and goodness. However, the first thing that one has to wonder is whether Plato was granting them the same importance or suggesting a hierarchy between them given that the idea of justice is the culmination of the coming into being of the perfect city. In particular, it does seem that the idea of beauty is subjected to the idea of goodness provided that censorship is waged against those artists that compose stories or produce works of art that could corrupt the souls of the young guardians. Dangerous stories and any form of art that shows evil and ugliness should be prohibited in the name of goodness. Similarly, the city-state has to be restrained from unnecessary luxuries because the unlimited desire for wealth leads to war. That hierarchy is more obvious when we realize that, though temperance or moderation is a virtue that should apply to all the classes, it actually fits the appetitive part of the soul representing the trading class. Another confirmation comes from Plato’s claim that the spirited part is the “subject and ally” of the rational part that helps it control the appetitive part by “following its ruler, and bravely executing its purposes”, and, in so doing, it prevents the “rebellion of one part of the soul against the whole”. Indeed, the appetitive part “is such by nature that that part ought to be a slave, and the other part, which is of the royal class, ought not” (444b). This is consistent with the following statement: “It is not my opinion that a healthy body by its excellence makes the soul good. The opposite is the case” (403e). We have here a soul that imprints its good character on the body which suggests an alliance between the spirited and the rational part to make sure that the appetitive part is under control. The last piece of evidence is that he never mentions plenty as an immutable idea, so maybe he thought it was identical to temperance and thus part of goodness in which case it was not a different idea such as beauty. If so, Plato’s hierarchy of ideas is presided over by justice (Fig. 5.1).

Fig. 5.1  Plato’s hierarchy of immutable ideas





5  The Prehistory of Human Science

In addition, the hierarchy of parts within the embodied soul also implies that there is a hierarchy of classes within the city-state. The producers, traders, and hired labour are the lower classes working together to satisfy the physiological needs of all the citizens living in the city by producing and selling food, shelter, clothing, and so on. Then we have the artists who seem to belong to this class, maybe within a subclass of craftsmen, though the poets do not seem to fit well here because they compose with the soul. Above them we have the classes that have been educated in music and gymnastics to balance a healthy body with a good soul, the army and the police. And, finally, we have the old wise men on the top of the hierarchy that should rule the city-state, the philosophers. However, these wise men are not free because they have to obey their philosophical nature and devote themselves to the interest of the city even against their own will if they refuse to serve the state. So, according to Plato: we shall not really do an injustice to the philosophers who arise in our city, but can speak justly when we proceed to compel them to watch over and care for the others […] It is a just demand, and they are just. And assuredly each of them will take up office as a compulsory duty. (520a–520e)

In short, the human world is not a self-determined system but a hierarchy of classes in which there are rulers and followers by nature and the position they occupy is decided by birth, so the lowest class will never be able to be guardians and eventually rulers. Instead, they will have to work to satisfy the basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid of the ideal city-state (Fig. 5.2). Furthermore, besides not being a self-determined human world, the city-state does not display any of the general attributes defining our new concept of system that includes all the types of beings in the universe. The different city-states are all identical in the sense that they all exemplify the ideal city-state by participating in the ideas of beauty, goodness, and justice from which their being is derived. Therefore, though all the city-states that exemplify the idea of justice may appear to be different, they are all essentially self-similar things. How is this possible? Well, because they all share one and the same being in as much as they all participate in the same immutable ideas. Second, the city-state is not a discontinuous system because its nature does not change; the different classes have to do only those things Fig. 5.2  Plato’s hierarchy of classes

Wise men

Army and Police

Producers and Traders

5.2  Plato’s City-State


that they are fitted to do by nature and cannot do anything different from what they have been prescribed to do by nature. If so, all classes within the city and the city itself are continuous systems. In fact, if they wanted to do something different in the future, they would do an injustice to their nature. One wonders if a human world in which everyone has to conform to a system of pre-established occupations which may not fit everyone’s nature is not a miserable world. Is it acceptable to continue doing what makes them unhappy? In the case of the lowest class, do they have to continue learning by doing the same things, or can they have access to universal education to change their destiny? If these things are unacceptable, then we have to question the nature of justice as Plato understood it. Thirdly, is the city-state truly one system or more like a plurality of classes? It looks more like the second option because each class seems to be working alone carrying its own duty and the philosophers seem the most isolated of all because if they had the option they would prefer to continue contemplating the good rather than ruling the city: Then it will be our task as founders […] to compel the best natures to proceed to that study which we declared a little while ago to be the highest, to perceive the good, and to make that ascent we spoke of; and when they have done so, and looked long enough, then we must not allow them the liberty which they now enjoy […] of staying there, and refusing to descend again. (519d)

Lastly, it is difficult to conceive an ideal city-state as being something active because if it participates in the ideas of plenty, beauty, goodness, and justice, then it would be a perfect city in which all the classes would accept passively everything as it is without willingness to change anything. This human world, however, is far from ours in which utopic systems are not satisfied with the recurring world as it is and work actively for a different possible world. In short, living according to justice in Plato’s sense, in which everyone does what is supposed to do by nature, does not do any justice to our self-determined world. Now that the Western civilization had a new concept of human system corresponding to a new world-hypothesis, its thinking imagination could accept a hierarchical order because everyone was different by nature and hence some people were born to rule and others to obey. Furthermore, democracy was not the best form of government if the city-state had to be ruled by the best. In fact, it was after the restoration of the Athenian democracy that Socrates was brought to trail and sentenced to death in 399  BC.  Anyway, it came to an end when the Macedonian empire expanded into Greece under Philip II of Macedon (382–336 BC) and Alexander the Great (356–323  BC). The new spatial and temporal boundaries of the emerging Hellenic civilization would first stretch out East and then to the West to spread its way of thinking into the Greco-Roman world. After the Sack of Rome (410 AD), however, a Roman African living in Hippo Regius (Algeria) and named after that city, Augustine of Hippo (354–430  AD), was writing a book that was going to reshape the Western thinking imagination, the City of God (426 AD), by means of a new world-hypothesis that gave birth to the Christian world. Interestingly, according to the authorities, Augustine was a Neoplatonist philosopher with some originality but not enough to be the father of medieval philosophy. Instead, he is remembered as one of the Fathers of the Church, that is, as a Christian theologian.


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

In finding parallelisms with previous periods, Plato was born during the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) which brought an end to the Athenian Empire, and Augustine experienced the division and collapse of the Roman Empire, so both founders lived in a time of crisis in which their civilization appeared to be dying only to be reborn again. Likewise, something similar happened with the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in which Descartes enlisted for a couple of years and with the First World War (1914–1918) years during which Husserl was writing Ideas II. In all these cases, the Hellenic civilization was reborn again after a big crisis. If so, we could argue that the birth of a new world-hypothesis not only changes the way of thinking of a given civilization but also that civilization itself. However, this does not imply that the next change of our human civilization will come after another world war but more probably from a world crisis. But do we have any sign of a similar but radically different crisis? Well, from looking at the human world today, we can see that the achievements in terms of the things that matter to utopic systems are now being lost. Indeed, we are now witness to the gradual disappearance of realized ideas due to the rise of dystopic systems throughout the Western world. These human systems pursue dystopias in as much as they look into the future not as something possible but as something de-realized from the human world. Dystopic systems are working together with other dystopic systems to destroy what utopic systems have managed to achieved with great effort and perseverance over hundreds of years. Particularly, the human world is losing out in terms of the realized ideas related to plenty, goodness, justice, and beauty. So, yes, there is a global crisis threatening the human world because human systems are now using their thinking imagination to de-realize the utopic world. Yet, as self-­ determined systems, we can contribute to the destruction of the human world or continue with the construction of the utopic world. For those human systems that prefer the second option, a new world-hypothesis may free the Western civilization from its own destruction of the human world and give birth to a new civilization.

5.3  Augustine’s God-State Moving to our next concept of human system, Augustine also wanted to free the human world from its own destiny after the “last judgement of God” with the end of the two cities of God’s state, the earthly city and the City of God (426 AD). The origin of these two cities was made possible by the next world-hypothesis, the created world. An interesting feature of this new “cosmology” is that it was born together with a new “anthropology”. This was not the case with Plato who first developed a “cosmology” in the Parmenides (c. 370 BC) and then the corresponding “anthropology” in the Republic (c. 367 BC), but neither was this the case with later “cosmologies” whose anthropologies were not even worked out by the same philosophers who founded them. By contrast, Augustine worked out both things in the same book which is the only case we know of in the history of Western philosophy. However, this is less exceptional than it may seem at first given the nature of

5.3  Augustine’s God-State


the question informing his philosophical inquiry. Indeed, unlike with the former questions, the answer to the question of “how is the structure of the universe possible” is a “cosmology” rather than resulting in world-hypothesis and that cosmology included “anthropology” as part of the all-encompassing world. Therefore, the next cosmology could not come without anthropology because the answer required both things. That human world begins to appear in Book XI where Augustine introduces the origin of the two cities that “are in this present world commingled, and as it were entangled together”, and correspond to “the difference that arose among the angels” when “God divided the light from darkness” knowing beforehand that some of them were going to fail him and fall from the heavens to the earth. His created world consisted in a hierarchy of creatures in which humans, made in the image of God, had been granted the privilege of living eternally happily in the paradise free from any possible burden. But already anticipating their “original sin”, He created an earthly city so they could join the fate of the society of bad angels after the fall from that paradise. We cannot blame God for our current misery in the earth because, according to Augustine, He only created good things and hence humans are responsible for having been corrupted by sin. God did not force us to do so, it was us, our free will, that decided to go against His will. Our bad use of our free will is what precipitated the fall from paradise, not God as He only created good things “in the beginning”. Unfortunately, after the original sin, we would now have to live in the earthly city already foreseen and created by God and suffer the burden of the body, that is, pain and death, but with the possibility of later joining the society of good angels in the immortal city of God. This is the origin of the sinful human society which, despite being corrupted from the beginning, is nevertheless superior to the rest of the universe: Those which have life are ranked above those which have none […] among things that have life, the sentient are higher than those which have no sensation, as animals are ranked above trees. And, among the sentient, the intelligent are above those that have not intelligence,— men, e.g., above cattle […] though in the order of nature angels rank above men, yet, by the scale of justice, good men are of greater value than bad angels. (XI,C16)

Humans were created with an intermediate nature between angels and “beasts” so they could reach the “blessed and endless immortality” of good angels or be subjected to “the slave of appetite, and doomed to eternal punishment after death”, if they decided to offend God by making a bad use of their free will, which they did. However, before that happened, man was given a chance in the paradise to show that he could do justice to God by following his mandate. In particular, the creation of the human world started with the first man out of whom He created the first woman in order to ensure “the unity of society and the bond of concord”. As Augustine claims, “He did not even create the woman that was to be given him as his wife, as he created the man, but created her out of the man, that the whole human society might derive from one man” (XII, C21). God created the original unity of husband and wife, “to aid him in the work of generating his kind”. That state of happiness in the paradise did not last long because “God was not ignorant that man would sin,


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

and that, being himself made subject now to death, he would propagate men doomed to die” (XII, C22). Indeed, God foresaw everything that was going to happen “in the beginning” before creating man and, hence, saw the need to create two cities or societies because the first human union was going to commit sin. “For from that man all men were to be derived—some of them to be associated with the good angels in their reward, others with the wicked in punishment” (XII, C28). This is the origin of the two cities. In a way, God was not responsible for that original sin since he had created a good man, “who fell into sin by the woman”, and who was now condemned justly to engender condemned descendants, “for its own will was the originator of its evil”. This means that all humanity has a corrupted nature because we are all paying the consequences of man’s sinful action which “originated the whole train of evil […] with its concatenation of miseries […] which has no end, those only being excepted who are freed by the grace of God” (XIII, C14). This is why Augustine says that both cities are entangled together in the present world. So how are they to be distinguished from each other if they live together in the same world? Basically, by the form of love that constitutes each society, “the earthly by the love of itself, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of itself. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord”. One is “ruled by the love of ruling” and in the other “the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, in the charity of the former ruling and the latter obeying” (XIV, C28). Those two loves constitute the two cities. Whereas the earthly city lives according to man in pursuing earthly goods related to the body and the soul “exalting his wisdom”, the heavenly city is not dominated by pride and lives in faith waiting for the eternal goods promised by God. Now it is up to humans to decide which destiny they want to face at the end of time because “one is predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil” (XV, C1). Furthermore, only the grace of God can liberate our nature from the punishment of the original sin at the end of our mortal life by providing us “eternal peace”; this is the “supreme good” found in the city of God in which we will be immortal and free from all suffering: When we shall have reached that peace, this mortal life shall give place to one that is eternal, and our body shall be no more this animal body which by its corruption weighs down the soul, but a spiritual body feeling no want, and fully subjected to the will. (XIX, C18)

What can we say about this concept of human system? Well, unlike the city-state in which humans had to live according to their nature, in the God-city we have a free will that can choose to live either according to the human being or to God, that is, either as a member of the earthly city or of the heavenly city. In some sense, we can say that human world is self-determined somehow. However, since our nature is corrupted by the original sin, we are not truly free because our desire and our will are divided after we lost the paradise and hence subjected to the lower passions of the body. Before the fall, we were truly free because our body and our soul were in harmony, but after the fall, the libido no longer obeys the will. This is the price we paid, to carry the burden of our body with its continuous temptations seducing our

5.3  Augustine’s God-State


will. Therefore, due to the original sin, we are now more subjected to the pleasures of the flesh than before the fall since we lost the true freedom of the will we once enjoyed in the paradise. “Man has been given over to himself because he abandoned God, while he sought to be self-satisfying; and disobeying God, he could not obey even himself” (XIV, C24). We are now sinful creatures by nature which have to learn to avoid falling prey to the lower passions of our body because we will never be able to free ourselves completely from that burden during our mortal life. This is not a self-determined human life if our will is always slaved to desire which we have to keep fighting until our death. We also see another difference in comparison to Plato’s city-state. The different parts of the soul represented by the different classes now correspond to the earthly city since human beings are a unity of body and soul. The appetitive part is now the lower passions of the body, the rest of the body is the spirited part, and the soul is the rational part. Given that the human being is corrupted by nature, the cultivation of the body and the soul leads to the domination of pride at the expense of the devotion to God. To live in accordance to ourselves is thus now considered sinful because we have to life in accordance to God. Contrary to Plato, to live in accordance to justice is not a virtuous life as such because in following our nature in the earthly city, we are only pursuing earthly goods. True wisdom depends on aiming at something higher, the celestial peace in the city of God, which is superior to justice in the ideal city-state: [As regards goods,] it is not true wisdom in these matters that which discerns with prudence, stands with courage, represses with temperance and orders with justice without aiming at the supreme end in which God shall be all in all things in a secure eternity and perfect peace. (XIX, C20)

This shows that Augustine accepted Plato’s virtues on the condition that they depend on eternal peace without which those earthly goods were not true wisdom. In connection to this point, he also seems to have accepted his hierarchy modifying it accordingly. Indeed, “in the beginning” God created only good things, but the original sin made man responsible in front of the God who deprived him of his good nature as a punishment. After the fall, the only way to recover that original good condition was to hope for eternal peace in the city of God after death in the earthy city. God’s justice will also be shown on the day of his final judgement dictating the destinies of the two cities. Clearly, God’s creation was informed first by his goodness and then by his justice, but his goodness will reward those that love him with the supreme good, eternal peace in heaven. So at the beginning and at end of the two cities, God’s goodness reigns higher than the interim period in which his justice prevails. Plato’s ideal city-state has given way to the God-state presiding over the two cities (Fig. 5.3) which will exist together until the end of time when the earthly city will perish and the heavenly city will live “in the perfectly ordered and harmonious union to enjoy God and together in God” (XIX, C17). Another feature that stand out from comparing them is that though Augustine accepts that in God-state everyone must obey God and most people are subject to their rulers, this human world is less hierarchical in the sense that everyone has the


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

Fig. 5.3 Augustine’s God-state


Heavenly City

Earthly City

possibility of becoming a member of the city of God, whereas in the city-state the class to which people belonged was decided by birth and only the best guardians could become rulers. So, in a way, it was more egalitarian because everyone could equality enjoy the grace of God if they showed their love towards him. However, due to the original sin, humans were now slaves of their passions instead of having a good soul ruling a healthy body. So, yes, the God-state was a more egalitarian society but less free than Plato’s city-state. In addition, since human society originated from one first man, it means that we are all equal by birth but also equally corrupted by the original sin of the first couple. However, the celestial city is not equal to the earthly city because the love for God is superior to the love for the human condition and, thus, the happiness based on earthly goods is inferior to the true happiness with God: Who can deny that that future life is most blessed, or that, in comparison with it, this life which now we live is most wretched, be it filled with all blessings of body and soul and external things? […] the actual possession of the happiness of this life, without the hope of what is beyond, is but a false happiness and profound misery. (XIX, C20)

In comparing the God-state with our concept of system, we can say that in addition to not being a self-determined system, this human world is not singular but constituted by two cities entangled together in the same world, which means that they are dually constituted, one is corrupted by the sin and mortal and the other is free from that punishment. If they are entangled together, it is difficult to conceive how the two cities can work together because they do not share the same space and time. In short, the God-state is a dual human system with a mutually opposing constitution rather than being one single system working together. Second, if we compare the two cities, one is active and the other passive, one at war with itself and the other in peace with God. The earthly city “is often divided against itself by litigations, wars, quarrels, and such victories as are either life-destroying or short-lived […] For it desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods, and it makes war in order to attain to this peace” (XV, C4). Next, the human world is not different from the God-state because human systems are made in the image of God and hence are his self-similar creations. Lastly, human beings are not discontinuous systems because once the first man, the only discontinuous being, committed the original sin, we are all corrupted creatures for the rest of our life without being able to learn

5.3  Augustine’s God-State


from the original mistake and, thus, we will be continuously sinful creates until the end of time. What about live in paradise, was this a genuine human life? Well, the first spouse and wife could not look into a different possible world they could work together for because they had everything they could have needed and hence nothing to do in this perfect paradise created by God: In Paradise, then, man […] lived without any want […] He had food that he might not hunger, drink that he might not thirst, the tree of life that old age might not waste him […] Body and spirit worked harmoniously together and the commandment was obeyed without effort. No boredom bothered the idle, no sleeping stressed the will. (XIV, C26)

How different from our human world constituted by the constant effort of utopic systems working together to change the things that matter to them because they are not satisfied with the actual world that has been passed on to them. In summary, according to this anthropology, humans are not self-determined systems because, after the original sin, their desire is no longer in harmony with their will. It is also far from being singular because it is constituted by two cities with opposite natures entangled somehow in God’s creation, one being mortal and the other being immortal. Human systems are far from being different since they are made in the image of God, far from discontinuous because they cannot change their destiny, and less than active because, except for the earthly city, both the perfect paradise and the city of God are places in which our thinking imagination is not required for anything as everything had been entirely thought by him “in the beginning”, including the end of the two cities: eternal punishment with the devil or eternal peace with God. In short, the human world is a miserable place to live in, but our love for God may one day compensate in heaven our punishment for the original crime depending on his grace. This is the “anthropology” that would determine how the “Christian Empires” and the Christian Church would think about themselves in the medieval period, the first as the earthly cities and the other as representing the celestial city within the Kingdom of God. In correspondence to the two cities, the Christian world was split between two powers, the state, as the temporal power, and the Church, as the spiritual power, in which the former was a member of the latter. In other words, the state was a member of the God-state represented by the Church. Historically speaking, the first Christian state within the medieval world was the Byzantine Empire under Justinian I (527–565), an Eastern Roman Emperor who wanted to restore the Roman Empire after its decline. However, by that time, the thinking imagination of the Western civilization had already been reshaped by a new world-hypothesis giving birth to both the Christian East and the Christian West, whose temporal power was first represented by the Merovingian Kingdom (508–751) and then by the Carolingian Empire (800–888). And a couple of centuries later, the so-called EastWest Schism (1054) between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church appeared to have separated the Christian West from the Christian East. But the fate of the Byzantine Empire was not the end of the later Roman world, which had changed into the Christian world 1000 years earlier and would prevail as such until


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) when the Western civilization would face another crisis followed by a new beginning. And the man behind that change was Descartes (1637) who, in fact, enlisted in a Protestant army first and then entered a Catholic army in the early years of the war until the Spring of 1621 when he decided to change the course of his life. [Indeed,] after I had been occupied several years in thus studying the book of the world, and in essaying to gather some experience, I at length resolved to make myself an object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind in choosing the paths I ought to follow. (Ibid [1913]: 10)

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature Despite the allusion “to make myself an object of study”, the founder of the modern “cosmology” did not provide its corresponding “anthropology” which was worked out by other philosophers. In fact, this was unusual in the history of Western philosophy given then that our previous founders of world-hypothesis had also been the philosophers in charge of developing the different concepts of the human world in keeping with those “cosmologies”. But there was something even more unusual in the modern age; there was going to be more than one concept of ourselves, namely, civil society, human mind, utilitarian action, and human species, all made logically possible by the next world-hypothesis which Descartes had given birth to. Furthermore, in the modern age, we also see for the first time how world-hypothesis is working its way through to reach the human studies by means of those concepts of human systems. In the case of civil society, which originated in Hobbes (1651), it was going to have an influence on sociology and jurisprudence, whereas the other concepts, developed by Hume (1739), Bentham (1789), and Kant (1798), managed to enter psychology, economics, and anthropology. Despite their multiplicity, however, all these concepts shared the general concept that human beings have a rational nature which did originate in Descartes’s (1641): “my essence consists only in being a thinking thing or a substance whose whole essence or nature is thinking” (Ibid [1912]: 132).

5.4.1  Hobbes’s Civil Society So let us start with Hobbes’s relevant works, De Cive or The Citizen (1642) and The Leviathan (1651), to trace the concept of civil society derived from our rational nature. In particular, society comes from following the laws of reason which lead to the establishment of a “Mortal God” who has the absolute power over its subjects. This contradicted the idea of a Christian state in which the ruling power is shared together with the Church as the “two kingdoms” or the “two swords” in the human world:

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature


The kingdom of Christ is not of this world: therefore neither can his ministers, unless they be kings, require obedience in his name. For if the Supreme King have not his regal power in this world; by what authority can obedience be required to his officers? (Ibid [1909]: 385)

But how is the “civil power” erected if it does not depend on the blessing of God? Well, Hobbes (1642) also made use of the idea of an original state to explain the origin of “civil government” which did not result from an original sin but from an original contract between men who lived in state of war against each other, that is, the opposite to living in a peaceful paradise. Indeed, “the original of all great and lasting societies consisted not in the mutual good will men had towards each other, but in the mutual fear they had of each other” (Ibid [1949]: 24). Why did humans live in a natural state of mutual fear? Because all men were born “equal by nature” and therefore all men had “equal right to all” resulting in mutual animosity towards each other because none had more right than others to the same things. Therefore, humans feared to be hurt by others given their equal right to everything. Furthermore, that hostility was grounded on the fact that there were not big differences in terms of body power between men and, if there was any, some could get together to fight stronger men but, in turn, they could be equally abused by others. So everyone had to look over their shoulders and nobody could trust anyone. According to Hobbes, “the most frequent reason why men desire to hurt each other, arises hence, that many men at the same time have an appetitive to the same things which yet very often they can neither enjoy in common, nor yet divide it” (Ibid: 26). So far, two features of the modern world-hypothesis have already appeared – on the one hand, the equality of corpuscles, all men being equal in strength, and, on the other, the fact that they cannot occupy the same space simultaneously, i.e. men cannot enjoy the same things at once. Consequently, there is a relationship of mutual exclusion between corpuscles existing next to each other because they cannot occupy the same space, a relationship of mutual war between men against each other because they cannot enjoy the same things at the same time. In fact, Hobbes defines liberty as the “absence of external impediments” which is the same as saying that a body continues in motion unless disturbed by something external. Thus, the modern world-hypothesis was making his concept of human system possible. Next, in that original human condition, “in that state of nature, to have all, and do all, is lawful for all” (Ibid: 28). According to Hobbes, this is not to behave against reason because not doing so would mean giving up the means available “to protect his life and members”, and nobody should do so because, in a state of nature, nobody has more right to something than others, and, therefore, the “right of all to all”, that is, “natural right”, is grounded on reason. However, we could never consider the state of nature as a just order because what prevailed was the law of the strongest, but neither could we claim that it was an unjust order either, according to Hobbes (1651). Something can only be unjust in the natural state if it contradicts reason which is not the case. “To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust” (Ibid [1909]: 96). Fortunately, humans are endowed by nature with laws of reason which can prevent them from living a perpetual war against each other in which everything is permitted and nothing is a


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crime. Indeed, “reason suggests convenient articles of peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the laws of nature” (Ibid: 96). So what are these “laws of nature” that come from our rational nature which can free ourselves from this “nasty, brutish, and short” life in the state of nature? For starters, the law of nature is grounded on a general rule “by which a man is forbidden to do that, which is destructive of his life, or take away the means of preserving the same” (Ibid: 99). That is, a man is allowed to use any means at his disposal to defend his own life and his family from its neighbour enemies, and it is a crime not to do so because it would be like accepting injustice. Therefore, the law of nature justifies the right to everything that preserves our life. However, since we do not think that constantly fighting others is always the best mean to preserve our life, the first fundamental law of nature suggests itself: “to seek peace and follow it” and, when this is not possible, “By all means we can, to defend ourselves. In short, first seek peace as the best way to preserve life and, if it is not possible, then self-defence. This is the first mandate of reason from which every other natural law derives. And the second law of nature is “that a man be willing, when others are so too […] to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself” (Ibid: 100). This law of nature opens the door to giving up “the right of all to all” if all men in that natural state can find a better way to preserve their life other than fighting each other forever. They will only consider giving up that natural right if they can gain something that is preferable, to seek peace. So there is third law of nature that makes that possible, “to perform contracts” in which men can agree to renounce that right “by transferring it to another”, the Leviathan (1651), namely, the civil power that results from mutual consent among men. This is not something that happened in the human history but a hypothetical original contract between men by which they gave up their right to all in the state of nature to ensure peace by means of constituting of a civil state with the absolute power over its subjects. Living according to reason leads humans to constitute civil society through an original contract in which everyone gave up their right to all things by transferring it to someone else, the civil government, who now had the absolute power over its subjects. In Hobbes’ own words: For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE, which is but an Artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Sovereignty is an Artificial Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body. (Ibid: 8)

Why does he say “an artificial man” and “an artificial soul” give motion to a body? Well, according to the modern world-hypothesis, the universe is constituted by extended bodies made of mutually interacting corpuscles. Thus, it is logically possible to think in some natural bodies, men, as constituting other extended bodies, political bodies, by mutual reciprocity. Indeed, the reciprocal interaction between extended bodies is now analogous to the mutual consent constituting a bigger human artefact, the leviathan. Surely, we cannot call conceive this sovereign as something

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akin to a man, so he uses the term “artificial soul” moving the artificial body since it results from the one will of all men. According to Hobbes (1642), in the human world, this is possible given that, unlike animals, they have “reason, by which they may contract and submit to government” which is one will (Ibid [1949]: 65). This can only happen if “every man will so subject his will to some other one, to wit, either man or council”, “the will of all those men to the will of one man, or one council” (Ibid: 67). So the authority of the civil government comes from the identification of the will of all men with the will of one man or council made possible by the original contract. Therefore, it is possible for natural bodies endowed with reason, that is, rational natures, to create by contract an artificial man “so as he may use all the power and faculties of each particular person, to the maintenance of peace and for common defence” (Ibid: 68). Furthermore, by definition, the supreme power of the state cannot be shared with other bodies equally constituted by contract which means that they are all subjected to him. And in order to explain how these civil bodies can have a representative, Hobbes (1651) makes use of the concept of person which can be either natural or artificial depending on whether the “words or actions are considered, either his own, or as representing the words or actions of another man” (Ibid [1909]: 145). If so, civil bodies are always artificial persons represented by a natural person or by several. In the case of a monarchy, the state is an artificial person represented by the king, a natural person. “He that carries this Person, is called SOVEREIGN, and said to have Sovereign Power; and every one besides, his SUBJECT” (Ibid: 132). This concept of artificial person will be useful to develop a classification of the different “systems of people” that can get together for an interest or to carry out an activity within the civil state. If the constituted group of people has a representative, the system is regular, if not, irregular. Within the regular systems, they can be either independent, if they are only subjected to their representative, such as states, or dependent systems, if they are subjected to the sovereign power. In turn, the latter can either be subordinate political bodies of the state or private bodies, constituted by mutually consenting subjects, permitted by the state; otherwise they are illegal systems. So the only system in which its representative has unlimited or absolute power is the state because all others are subjected to him. What is interesting about this human world is that justice only comes into the picture as when the third law of nature is enacted, namely, “that men perform their Covenant made” (Ibid: 110), which means that once they have created the civil state by mutual consent, people cannot just walk away and continue doing what they did in the state of nature because now they are obliged to obey both the civil power and the civil laws. That is, before the state was established, there was not justice or injustice because there was no legislation as such. We could think that the natural laws according to reason are now substituted by the civil law of the state, but, according to Hobbes, this is far from the case in as much as they are “different parts of law”, the unwritten and the written. And besides “the procuration of the safety of the people”, making good laws is another prerogative of the state. Moreover, if justice starts with the legal system, to talk about just law is a contradiction. “By a good law, I mean not a just Law: for no law can be unjust”, according to Hobbes (Ibid:


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268). However, even if lawmaking is one of the duties of the sovereign power, he is not subjected to civil law or international law: Concerning the offices of one sovereign to another, which are comprehended in that Law, which is commonly called the Law of Nations, I need not say anything in this place; because the Law of Nations, and the Law of Nature, is the same thing. And every sovereign has the same right, in procuring the safety of his people, that any particular man can have, in procuring the safety of his own body. (Ibid: 273)

In other words, states live in a state of nature in which the right of all to all prevails and hence they have to defend themselves from external impediments disturbing their natural liberty when peace between them is impossible. In other words, the law of the strongest prevails among antagonistic states. So states live in a state of perpetual war against each other because they cannot share the same things at the same time, and thus it “must to be decided by the sword”. In summary, there is no civil society among states because civil society starts and ends with the civil state; prestate society and international society are a contradiction in terms. It is now time to assess this concept of civil society in relation to both our concept of system and our concept of human system. First, the claim that the state is one because the sovereign represents the one will of all men does not seem to hold if the state is an artificial body made of natural bodies which are extended and thus divisible in nature. That is, the artificial body is divisible into those smaller natural bodies that created it through the original compact. Furthermore, in keeping with the modern world-hypothesis, the will of the state is not the will of all men because the former is divisible into but not identical to the latter. In order to avoid this contradiction, Hobbes first distinguishes in De Cive (1642) between “people” and “multitude”: The people is somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action may be attributed; none of these can properly by said of the multitude […] [Concluding that] in a monarchy, the subjects are the multitude, and, however it seems a paradox the king is the people. (Ibid [1949]: 135)

And later in The Leviathan (1651), the same idea is grounded on the distinction between the artificial person, the state, and the natural person representing it, the king, arguing that “a multitude of men, are made One person, when they are by one man, or one Person, Represented” (Ibid [1909]: 126). Anyway, the correspondence between the will of all men (multiple) and the will of the state (one) is still problematic, so, strictly speaking, the civil state is not one system, but a group of people or multitude. Next, the artificial man does not seem to be a different man either because political bodies are made of natural bodies that are, like corpuscles, identical by nature, so all sovereign states, like men, even though some are stronger than others, are all equal by nature. If artificial bodies are made of natural bodies which are equal among themselves, artificial bodies are necessarily identical among themselves. As regards discontinuity, the concept of liberty that Hobbes uses implies that political bodies are continuous systems in as much he defines it as “the absence of external impediments”, that is, “without hindrance from another”, which is like saying that a body, once in motion, will follow a continuous movement unless disturbed by something external. In turn, this concept of liberty also assumes that political

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bodies are passively reacting to external events opposing or restricting their right to everything. As to the concept of man, Hobbes (1651) tells us that humans have imagination which is related to what we have seen with the senses. In particular, “IMAGINATION therefore is nothing but decaying sense; and is found in men, and many other living Creatures […] the longer the time is, after sight, or Sense of any object, the weaker is the Imagination” (Ibid [1909]: 13–14). Accordingly, that decaying sense over time is equivalent to memory. “So that Imagination and Memory, are but one thing” and “the imaginations of them that sleep, are those we call Dreams. And these also (as all other Imaginations) have been before, either totally, or by parcels in the Sense.” (Ibid: 14–15). If this is the case, human systems do not have a thinking imagination that can look into a possible world as something different from the actual world because all they see are the things as they are which they perceive with the senses. Therefore, human systems cannot look into the future as something possible because they cannot see beyond the actual things as they experience them in the present. In Hobbes’s concept of man, only the actual is possible, because the possible is impossible. Well, maybe we will have more luck with his treatment of the virtue of “prudence”. Unfortunately, all thought is conceived as a “train of imaginations” and prudence is always related to the past: “Prudence is a presumption of the future, contracted from the experience of the past” (Ibid: 22). That is, we think of the future in terms of the past, so looking into the future is something impossible because we can only look into the past. In summary, the thinking imagination defining ourselves was something lacking in Hobbes who, ironically, could not realize how much his thinking imagination had been shaped by the modern world-hypothesis. Lastly, and most problematic, the civil state and civil society are considered as one and the same human system resulting from the original contract when the one will of all men is identified with the will of the sovereign. However, if the society and the state are doing different things, how can they be one and the same human system? Indeed, they have to be different things given that they do not share the same spatial and temporal level of organization if we understand civil society as the nation and the civil state as the government representing the state. If so, the nation and the state are clearly different human systems doing different things. This commonly assumed identity, the nation state, is a good example of how the first concept of human system made possible by the modern world-hypothesis started to shape the thinking imagination of the Western civilization in which a nation without a state is not a nation as such. In terms of human studies, the identity between civil state and civil society made it logically possible to split one side from the other in order to distinguish two different provinces of knowledge, jurisprudence and sociology, by identifying Hobbes’s concept of human system either with a political society or with an economic society, as it was done by Austin (1832) and Tönnies (1887), respectively. Indeed, the origin of those ideas resulted from the logical possibilities offered by the concept of civil society springing from the modern world-hypothesis. Again, this is a good case in point as to the way in which a world-hypothesis can determine the


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

space of different spheres of knowledge, some of which do not necessarily correspond to a genuine sphere of science. In the case of jurisprudence, Austin (1832) made use of the concept of an “independent political society” to define the legal space “consisting of a sovereign and subjects, as opposed to a political society which is merely subordinate” and is not “in a habit of obedience to a determinate and common superior” (Ibid [1861]: 171, 173). Alternatively, Tönnies (1887) distinguished community, “a unity of human wills”, from society, “a mass or multitude of natural and artificial individuals”, and claimed that a “mass commercial society is the culmination of a developing process of communal and rational life […] a transition from a general household economy to a general trading economy” (Ibid [2001]: 66). According to him, society resulted from exchange contracts between separate individuals who were formerly one “living organism” or community. In other words, the concept of civil society was split into a nation ruled by the will of the one sovereign and a society determined by the will of many individuals.

5.4.2  Hume’s Human Mind But Hobbes’s was not the only concept of human system that informed the spheres of knowledge in the modern age, as there were other logical possibilities that could harmonize with the modern world-hypothesis opening other spaces of human inquiry. Indeed, David Hume had developed the concept of human mind in A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) which made its way into the prehistory of psychology through James Mill (1829) and to which we now turn to. In the introduction, Hume (1739) states that “the science of man” includes four sciences, namely, “Logic, Morals, Criticism [Art], and Politics”, and that he will attempt to investigate the working of the human mind by means of the experimental method, “experience and observation”, which he has introduced into the “moral subjects” for the first time: For to me it seems evident, […] [it is] impossible to form any notion of its powers and qualities otherwise than from careful and exact experiments, and the observation of those particular effects, which result from its different circumstances and situations. (Ibid [2000]: 5)

In order to discover how the human mind works, the first thing is to distinguish properly its basic perceptual elements, impressions and ideas, according to their “degrees of force and liveliness”. Impressions, such as “sensations, passions, and emotions, are perceptions with more “force and violence” than those of ideas, which are only “faint images” in the mind. In turn, impressions and ideas can also be divided according to their composition into simple and complex. In keeping with the Descartes’ world-hypothesis, he was generalizing the nature of extended bodies divisible into corpuscles to the mind in which complex perceptions were divisible into simple perceptions. As to the origin of our ideas, he established a general principle: “that all our simple ideas in their first appearance are derived from simple impressions” (Ibid: 9). Investigating the matter further suggested to Hume that there are two ways in which ideas could appear in the mind and two faculties involved in

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature


the process. Whereas our memory repeats something intermediate between a vivid impression and a faint idea, the ideas of memory, our imagination repeats something without vivacity, the ideas of imagination. In addition, the two faculties did not work in the same way given that the ideas of memory are “restrained to the same order and form with the original impressions” but the ideas of imagination could follow a different order in the mind. Indeed, the imagination could separate simple ideas derived from complex impressions and then combine them into “new” complex ideas. Surely, this could not be done arbitrarily, since the ideas of the imagination must combine in certain ways and follow a rational order. Well, if Newton had discovered how material nature works, the laws of motion, maybe he could be the first to find out how our rational mind works? The only handicap was that Hume could not apply the experimental method in this sphere of inquiry in the same way as we can observe how coexisting corpuscles mutually interact in the external world. However, he could do experiments to observe the ways in which perceptions coexist together in his mind in order to discover how our imagination combines simple ideas derived from impressions. It is difficult to imagine how it was possible to observe the “association of ideas”, but he postulated three ways in which it actually happens: The qualities, from which this association arises, and by which the mind is after this manner conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz. RESEMBLANCE, CONTIGUITY in time or place, and CAUSE and EFFECT. I believe it will not be very necessary to prove, that these qualities produce an association among ideas, and upon the appearance of one idea naturally introduce another (Ibid: 13)

These are the different “laws” that explain how our mind works. “The true idea of the human mind is to consider it as a system of different perceptions or existences which are linked together” by certain relations (Ibid: 170). Again, this is logically compatible with the material world in which extended bodies coexist next to each other in reciprocal interaction, the only difference being that perceptions coexist next to each within the human mind in relations of resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect. We can conclude from this concept of human system that human thinking is always understood in terms of the past, as repeating what we have experienced before. Our ideas are always derived from original impressions we receive from our senses which they either repeat themselves in the same order and form in our memory or differently in our imagination. This means that, strictly speaking, we cannot think any new ideas as such but only “new” combinations of perceptions which our imagination has isolated from previous impressions and then put them together differently. In other words, human thinking can only look into a different composition from the same elements of actual world because our imagination can only replicate what is given to our senses, albeit in a different manner. But to imagine the same things in a different order and form is not to imagine different things but more like thinking the same things. Therefore, the thinking imagination of utopic systems, who can think of completely different things as being possible in the actual world, is totally absent from this concept of human mind. Moreover, according to this


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concept of human thinking, to start thinking differently is impossible because our next thoughts are always dependent on past thoughts, so thinking differently is a continuous reconsideration of past thinking but never a discontinuous process in which we discover something completely new. What is more, if we take this concept seriously, it would be possible to think of identical human minds that may have been exposed to the same original impressions from which the same ideas might derive. Of course, we could say that they will never be completely identical because, though they remember the same things, they can imagine them in different ways. However, there are only three possible ways to combine those original things, and it is very likely that, given that limited number of possibilities, they will always imagine similar things. Furthermore, it is difficult to conceive the human mind as being something active if it depends on the passivity of the senses imprinted in our memory. The mind looks more like a passive replicator of ideas derived from impressions. Lastly, it is far from being a unity since, according to Hume, “mind, is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions”, “a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinity variety of postures and situations”, that is, a mere multiplicity (Ibid: 165).

5.4.3  Bentham’s Utilitarian Action The multiplicity of concepts of the human system would not end there as there were further logical possibilities such as utilitarian action introduced by Jeremy Bentham in An Introduction to The Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) as “the principle of utility”. “NATURE has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure […] They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think (Ibid [1907]: 1). If Hume had postulated the laws of association of ideas in the human mind, Bentham would go further in claiming that the principle utility determines not only how we think but also how we behave and, therefore, it is the foundation of moral science. He would argue that before carrying out an action we ponder it in terms of pain and pleasure. In particular, we calculate whether the action increases or diminishes our happiness or that of those affected by it. So the utility principle is equally applicable to a particular individual or to the community in general and, therefore, could more properly be formulated as the principle of “the greatest happiness of all those whose interest is in question, […] end of human action” (Ibid.). Bentham defined a good action as any action that promotes pleasure and avoids pain of the parties involved and a bad action as the inverse and claimed that acting in accordance to this principle “is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and law” (Ibid: 2). In other words, an action informed by the utility principle is both rational and right and, if it is contrary to it, irrational and wrong. However, though we can imagine an individual weighing its interest in terms of the possible

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pleasure-­pain associated to any given action, what did that mean for a community to be subjected to this principle? As with Hobbes, “the community is a fictitious body, composed of individual persons who are considered as constituting as it were its members” (Ibid: 3). So the interests of the community is the sum of the individual interests which means that we can only contribute to the former with those actions that increase the overall amount of pleasure and reduces the amount of pain of its members. In summary, the end of utilitarian action is “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. What can we say about this concept of human system? First, by defining happiness in terms of the pleasure, Bentham reduces human action to immediate present satisfaction and human thinking to pondering possible feelings we can experience from actual actions. If so, it is blind to the present-future human horizon and to the fact that our thinking imagination looks into the possible from the actual rather than other way around. Furthermore, thinking is framed in terms of possible feelings when these are either experienced in the present or remembered from the past, but they are not thought as possible. It seems that Bentham’s concept of happiness is close to the satisfaction experienced by cybernetic systems. Second, if thinking is about possible feelings we have experienced before or will experience while acting, then it is reduced to the actual. As it turns out, utilitarian action cannot look beyond the present into the future as something different from the actual world. Accordingly, the thinking imagination of utopic systems is something impossible. As regards Bentham’s concept of community, it is similar to Hobbes’s concept of artificial body with the difference that it is not constituted by the mutual contract between individuals but by the sum of its members. Therefore, the community is not an artificial person represented by a natural person as the “systems of people” but a plurality of individuals. In addition, this community, which can be bigger or smaller depending on the amount of members within in it, is not different from but the same as any other multitude. Well, we could say that what makes communities different from each other is that they have different interests, but the interest of every community coincides with the interest of any individual, the greatest happiness. In turn, this fictitious aggregate body is seen as something passive receiving more or less pleasure or pain depending on whether the government implemented a good or a bad measure or reform contributing to increase or reduce “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. Neither the community nor its individual members are active systems but passive bodies affected by external events. Moreover, these bodies are continuous systems that will always pursue those utilitarian actions that bring the greatest pleasure without ever changing course to work for other things that are more important to human systems. These hedonistic systems are far from being self-determined in as much as they are governed by something other than themselves, namely, by “two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure”. Lastly, as to the influence of this concept of human system, it made it into the field of economics through Jevons (1871) who will be discussed in the next chapter.


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5.4.4  Kant’s Human Species Again, the logical possibilities of Descartes’s rational nature were not exhausted by the concepts of civil society, human mind, and utilitarian action, because, in addition to being artificial bodies or thinking minds, we could also think ourselves as bodies endowed with reason. Indeed, according to Kant (1798), this coincides with the concept of human species, “man in terms of his species, as an earthly being endowed with reason” who is a “citizen of the world” (Ibid [1974]: 3). This last modern concept of human system differs from that of the human mind subjected to the laws of association in that we take part in the world not as observers but as actors. Kant calls this anthropology pragmatic to distinguish it from the theoretical knowledge of the world because “to know the world and to know one’s way about in the world are rather far removed in meaning, since in the first case we only understand the play we have witnessed, while in the second we have participated in it” (Ibid: 4). According to him, to investigate what the human species has made of itself, we can either observe “what is going on within ourselves” or “man’s inner self from his exterior”. In the first case, we will discover our “cognitive” and “appetitive” powers, in addition to our “feeling of pleasure and displeasure”, and, in the second case, which is more relevant for our purpose, our “anthropological characterization”. How can we characterize the human species? We will find Kant’s answer in the last section of the book, On the Character of the Species. In general terms, what distinguishes our species from others is that we are “a terrestrial rational being” which does not mean much if we do not specify what we mean by being a rational being. Well, we can say that, unlike other species, we humans are endowed with reason, which of course does not add much either because we already knew from Descartes that the subject is a rational being. Instead, we need to specify how he “can make himself a rational animal” since we are considering the human species not as a thinking subject but as an animal nature making use of reason. In what way can the human species use reason? In three ways: “preserve himself and his species”, “educate his species for domestic society”, and “govern it as a systematic whole as is necessary for society”. What distinguishes the first from the last use of reason suggests a gradual evolution in the human species from a “technical predisposition” to “moral predisposition”, that is, from living only as rational animals in nature to living as fully civilized humans in society. But what interests us now is that technical predisposition of the human species given that it is this definition that has influenced palaeoanthropology, man as a tool-making animal: The characterization of man as a rational animal is already present in the form and organization of the human hand, partly by the structure and partly by the sensitive feeling of the fingers and fingertips. By this nature made him fit for manipulating things not in one particular way but in any way whatsoever, and so for using reason, and indicated the technical predisposition  - or the predisposition for skill of his species as a rational animal. (Ibid: 184–85)

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The human species is distinguished from other animal species because, “among the living beings that inhabit the earth”, “nature made him fit for manipulating things not in one particular way but in any way whatsoever”, that is, man has a “technical predisposition”. Does this concept of human system remind us of how we classify the Homo genus today? We are told that the human species evolved from the Australopithecus (4.5–2 Ma) as a distinct species because it started to make tools. In fact, though, at the time, the earliest known member of the Homo genus was named Homo erectus (2–0.07), the “upright man”, to distinguish it from apes, and an earlier member was named the Homo habilis (2.1–1.5 Ma), the “handy man”. In other words, this taxonomical classification of the Homo genus characterizes man as a tool-maker. Likewise, this concept of human system also informs the periodization of prehistory into Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages and the further division of the Stone Age into the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic. Indeed, both proposals made by Thomsen (1836) and Lubbock (1865) respectively were based on the dating and superseding of artefacts made by our common ancestors. Ironically, recently we have discovered a new species of Homo genus, the Homo naledi (0,335–0,236 Ma), which, despite having manipulating precision, the excavation team did not find any handmade tools in the cave in which they buried their deceased. This is a good case in point showing how a world-hypothesis determines not only our thinking imagination but also what we can see as being possible or impossible. The use of tools to manipulate things is not enough to characterize human systems because, unlike cybernetic systems, these entangled systems work together to do other things besides being in a stable equilibrium with their environment. Our human ancestors did things that may be difficult to see from the archaeological evidence of prehistorical times, but what we discover at the “Cradle of Humanity” is nevertheless shaped by the concepts we held about ourselves. Kant’s concept of human species, however, went beyond assuming only a technical predisposition because our species is also characterized by a pragmatic and moral predisposition that helped us overcome our “crude state” to become a civilized society. If so, maybe what we have discovered about Ancient Society (1877) is equally shaped by Kant’s belief in our development from animality to humanity. Indeed, Morgan’s (1877) thinking imagination made that prejudice explicit in that same book subtitled Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization. This concept of human species assumes that the different stages in the development of Homo sapiens or the “wise man” correspond to a gradual transition from animal nature to human nature in which we achieve higher stages of human progress. According to Morgan, the last stage originated “among the Greeks and Romans” when “political society supervened upon gentile society, but not until civilization had commenced”. In the words of Kant (1798), “a civil constitution artificially raises to its highest power the human species’ good predisposition to the final end of its destiny” (Ibid: 188). What is most problematic about this way of thinking is that Morgan (1877) believed to have found enough facts about the “growth of intelligence” to conclude the following:


5  The Prehistory of Human Science It can now be asserted upon convincing evidence that savagery preceded barbarism in all the tribes of mankind, as barbarism is known to have preceded civilization. The history of the human race is one in source, one in experience, and one in progress. (Ibid: Preface)

Why problematic? It is obvious that utopics systems have made many great achievements that constitute the human world, but to claim that human civilization began with “the production of iron” is bind to the fact that we have always been entangled systems sharing levels of organization working together to achieve something that mattered to us. In the case of “the growth of the idea of government”, why consider a kinship organization less civilized than a political organization? Instead, was not the constitution of states a better way to achieve another of those things that matters to us? Does this mean that earlier human systems did not care about justice because they were savage and barbarian tribes? No at all, maybe if we look at the archaeological discoveries anew, we will see that “ancient society” cared about justice, plenty, goodness, and beauty as much as we do today because it is essential to what utopic systems are. More importantly, we cannot believe that the human condition superseded the animal condition because the heterogeneous constitution of the universe has shown us that human systems share the intrinsic structure of cybernetic systems and, thus, the laws of the cybernetic world apply equally to the human world. Likewise, our biological anatomy changes by natural selection because we share the same intrinsic structure of living systems, but the anatomy of the universe is immutable. If so, the human condition never left behind its cybernetic condition to start doing civilized things because it has always done the human things. In a nutshell, the development from animality to humanity is a myth. And the prehistory of human science that we have been retelling in this chapter is the story of the myths about ourselves that have shaped our thinking imagination since the birth of the Western civilization. Morgan even found a universal law behind the transition myth of the human species. All ancient societies go through the same “principal stages of human development”, from a “state of savagery” to a “state of civilization”, and always following the same “necessary sequence of progress”. If so, besides not being self-determined, human systems would be continuous systems without being able to change course when, in fact, the history of Western civilization has shown us that it has been reshaped at least four times, and this does not mean that all human civilizations have to go through the same principal periods of Western thinking. On the contrary, civilizations do not follow the same “plan of the Supreme Intelligence” because they are all different from each other and do not necessarily repeat the same stages. Only the civilizations that share the same spatiotemporal level of organization working together share the same history, so, contrary to Morgan, we cannot say that “the history of the human race is one in source, one in experience, and one in progress”. If all civilizations follow the same “necessary sequence”, does not this concept of human species imply determinism and the passive acceptance of the human world because we cannot change the plan of our destiny? Lastly, one wonders if the different stages corresponded to different “periods of civilization” or to different types of people, namely, the savage, the barbarian, and the civilized man. But are we

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature


multiple types of societies or one single human species? Morgan suggests that “ancient society” was different from “modern society” even though the “unity of origin of mankind” is implied because “the people themselves [came] from a common original stock” (Ibid: 8). In contrast, we have claimed that the Western civilization was born with a world-­ hypothesis shaping its thinking imagination, a way of thinking that was reshaped by different world-hypothesis until the present age. However, this does not mean that the other human systems with whom it worked together with lacked a thinking imagination because this constitutes the human civilization itself. The difference between these entangled systems was that, though they were able to work together, they could not imagine together unless they shared the same world-hypothesis. Indeed, the Western civilization, as a utopic entangled system, could look into the future as something possible and work together to realize something different. All those were self-determined systems working together with other self-determined systems, and each one was singular, different, active, and discontinuous, like the Western civilization itself. However, the Western civilization did not always use its thinking imagination to realize good things because a minority of dystopic systems have also destroyed what a minority of utopic systems have achieved in the past while the majority of humans systems did nothing to prevent it. The human civilization has to learn from its mistakes because it is capable of the best but also of the worst things we can possibly imagine. Before we finish with the end of our previous age, let us draw a table (Table 5.1) with the different modern concepts of human system that have made into different spheres of knowledge.

5.4.5  The Dionysian Anthropology While the modern world was entering a crisis, two concepts of human system stand out for what they questioned rather than for what they proposed as an alternative. They shared in common the denial that “social systems” were artificial persons without a mind, arguing that these were persons as real as individual persons, and Table 5.1  Influence of the Cartesian anthropology Human systems Hobbes’s (1642, 1651) civil society Hume’s (1739) human mind Bentham’s (1789) utilitarian action Kant’s (1798) human species

Fields Books Jurisprudence Austin’s The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832) Sociology Tönnies’s Community and Society (1887) Psychology Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829) Economics Jevons’ The Theory of Political Economy (1871) Anthropology Morgan’s Ancient Society (1877)


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

they could not accept Hobbes’s claim that there could not be a human system above the state. Chronologically speaking, the first concept, the group-person, was proposed by a jurist from the German historicist school, Otto von Gierke (1841–1921), and the second concept, the collective person, by the last modern philosopher, Max Scheler (1874–1928). Of course, there was one major discrepancy between them. Whereas Gierke’s group-person was a living organism evolving with time, Scheler’s collective person was an a priori spiritual being because it was a pure type of community that did not change. In terms of influences, we can see the imprint of Nietzsche’s thought on both of them given that Scheler also included another type of social unit, live-community, though that same classification was influenced by Husserl’s (1900) ideal objects in the “realm of values” which were correlated to different types of units co-experiencing them together. However, Scheler would later replace his philosophical sociology for a philosophical anthropology coming closer to Nietzsche’s concept of life. So let us start by comparing Scheler’s theory of social systems with Gierke’s group-person and leave for later the influence of Nietzsche’s life-philosophy on their concepts of human system. Well, according to Gierke (1902), we should acknowledge that “the social whole, like the individual organism, is a living structure, and classify the group-person together with the individual creature under the general concept of living creatures” (Ibid [1935]: 146). For Scheler (1916), the live-­ community is also an organic unity but defined by a life centre of co-feelings sharing the same “inwardness” which includes both the people and the state as a “plurality of communities”. However, the nation and the Church as collective personas are not analogous to a living organism because they co-experience different types of value-modalities, the holy and the spiritual values non-reducible to lower values such as the agreeable and the useful. In other worlds, the live-community is related to the body and collective person to the mind, but since the person is a psychophysical unity, they both coexist together in a higher spiritual unity. The nation or cultural person is supratemporal, and the Church is both “supra-cultural” and “supra-national”, and, as they are both spiritual persons, the collective person has “domination over the live body”, that is, sovereignty over the “social units directed toward only one value-modality” (Ibid [1973]: 543). Of course, we know that sovereignty results from the original contract between individual by which they renounce their right to everything by transferring it to an artificial body with absolute power which they have constituted. But Scheler’s collective person gets its authority from the hierarchy of the realm of values as correlates of different types of social units, so the Church (holy) and the nation (spiritual) are superior to the people (well-being). However, this will imply the antagonism between Life and Spirit which will manifest later in his philosophical anthropology. Next, Gierke’s (1868) group-persons are far from being a pure person as they “unite past generations with those to come, [and] gave us the possibility of evolution, of history” (Ibid [2002]: 2). Likewise, he will have to accept the struggle between the unity and plurality, two opposing principles that come together in the group-person. On the one hand, “men unite in a single organized common life”, but, on the other hand, there are also “the

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature


rights and independence of all the lesser units which go to make up the greater whole”, that is, unity versus “freedom” (Ibid: 2). In contrast to Hobbes, they both agree that the social system is neither an “aggregate of members” nor a “fictional being”, but a real person. In Scheler’s (1916) words, “the collective person is not a kind of ‘sum’ or a kind of artificial or real collection of individual persons”, but “possess a ‘consciousness-of’ that is different from and independent of the consciousness-of of the individual person” (Ibid [1973]: 523). For Gierke (1873), the group-person is “a real one” but “not perceptible to the senses as a separate entity over against the physical manifestations of the group” (Ibid [2002]: 242). Both struggle with the idea of the social systems being psychophysical unities like individual persons and argue that human systems have an independent existence that cannot be reduced to that of its independent members because, if so, it would be an aggregate body without unity. No, according to Gierke, “communities are single individuals” existing below and above the state and “all of which have an independent existence as opposed to the state”. In his last formulation in 1902, he went as far as to claim that the unity of the group-person had to be assumed since the unity of life cannot be observed but is implicit in the activity of living organisms. Ergo, the “active community” must be “a whole with a unity of life above its individuals” (Ibid [1935]: 147). Finally, in Scheler’s case, even though the collective person and the live-community where real unities, there was also something akin to an “artificial unity of individuals”, society, whose correlates were the values of utility and pleasure. In fact, this is the same identification we saw in Hobbes between civil society and the civil state. Likewise, society “is not a special reality outside or above individuals” because it is reducible to the “unit of self-­ conscious individual persons”. In summary, in both cases, it was difficult to argue for a new concept of human system assuming the logical premises derived from the modern world-hypothesis. As to the influence of Nietzsche, we do not see an analogue of the Dionysian man casting the group-person until Gierke’s inaugural address of 1902 in which we perceive a change of tone when he claims that “it must be a physico-spiritual living unity which has a will and can translate its will into action” (ibid [1935]: 144). The will is no longer something related to the mind but coincides with the living unity as a whole and explains the activity of social units, the “unitary bearers of life”. And it is in that address that he goes as far as claiming that “the organic interpretation of societies is justified in jurisprudence” (Ibid: 156). Indeed, societies are now casted in organic terms as living unities endowed a will. To see the influence on Scheler, we have to look into his last two books on philosophical anthropology, namely, Man and History (1926) and The Human Place in the Cosmos (1928). The first work is interesting in as much as we can compare the different “ideas of man” he identifies in Western history with the different concepts of human system springing from the different world-hypothesis that we have discussed so far. Like Cassirer’s (1925), he traces the philosophical beginning of anthropology to Classical Greece when man is distinguished from nature. That human status above nature is further emphasized by Christianity casting man in the image of God. These are the first two ideas of man, the Judaeo-Christian and the Greek idea of man corresponding to the theological


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

and the philosophical anthropologies. He also calls the latter, “Homo sapiens”, because it creates a separation between man and animal granting the former something holy, reason. According to Scheler, this idea will prevail until Hegel for whom the history of human spirit is independent of man’s biological constitution. However, this will change with the rise of the scientific anthropology, to which he gives different names, “naturalist, positivist and pragmatist”, but they all amount to the “homo faber”. What changes is that now between animal and man, there is only a difference of degree and not of kind, and what they have in common is that they are both instinctive. And finally he talks about a fourth idea, the “Dionysian man” or “the animal that has become ill by the spirit” because “reason is a disease of life”. This is the antagonism between the Life and Spirit we mentioned earlier. These ideas of man were to become the groundwork for Scheler’s (1928) own view of the human being in his next and final book. On the one hand, he would integrate together the scientific and the Dionysian anthropologies to describe Life, including plants and animals, and, on the other hand, man’s nature is casted by an opposite principle, Spirit. Basically, he refuses to accept the scientific reduction of the human being to the unity of nature which is based on the assumption that there is nothing in him that we cannot find in animals. To justify that there is indeed a difference in kind between them, he first introduces what is the distinctive feature of psychic life. Unlike his previous book in which “technical intelligence” was treated pejoratively as instinct, now it constitutes the essence of higher animals, “the organically bound practical intelligence” (Ibid [2009]: 21). In opposition to everything else: The new principle that makes man a man, is alien to everything we could call life, in the most general sense, be it internally psychical or externally vital. What makes a man a man is a principle opposed to all life in general […] the fundamental property of a “spiritual” being is its independence, freedom and existential autonomy – or of the center of its existence – in front of the ties or pressure of the organic, of ‘life’. (Ibid [2001]: 21)

What can we say about Scheler’s philosophical anthropology? Well, for starters, he is defining man in opposition to what is not man, vital and psychic life, that is, Life, which is defined by a mixture of the biology and psychology of his time with the life philosophers emphasizing instinctive life such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bergson. As to the idea of “technical intelligence” or homo faber, the working man, he thinks that it goes back to the pragmatists without realizing that it comes, in fact, from Kant’s notion of technical predisposition. Interestingly, he specifies “practical intelligence” further by saying that it involves “anticipation” and “choice” between means, but this is already implied in the use of tools by some animals that have learned that adaptive behaviour to maintain a stable equilibrium with their environment. In opposition to what defines Life, we have what defines man, Spirit. Whereas animals live in the environment, man is “free in front of the surrounding world” because he has inverted the relationship by concentrating on itself, self-­consciousness. “The spirit is the only being incapable of being object”. What Scheler is doing is not

5.4  Descartes’s Rational Nature


defining Spirit in opposition to Life but denying the modern “cosmology” itself. At the beginning of his work, he had been fighting to engross the subject with acts of feeling, but now the Spirit is neither something that thinks nor feels, neither rational nor sensitive in nature, because it is defined in opposition to psychophysical living nature. Unfortunately, by doing so, Spirit cannot find The Human Place in the Cosmos (1928) because anthropology is impossible without deriving its logical space from cosmology. Fortunately, the end of the modern world coincided with a reorientation of Western philosophy after the crisis of the Western civilization during the First World War (1914–1918). Though Scheler and Husserl are always included together as exponents of the phenomenological method reaching its peak with the publication of the first volume of the Jahrbuch in 1913, it is fair to say that after that year they started to live in different worlds because one of them began to imagine a different world-hypothesis. Ironically, Scheler give up the idea of the collective person at the same time when Husserl’s social subjectivity was on the horizon waiting to be worked out further by Heidegger. Indeed, the Husserl-Heidegger world-hypothesis saw the light with Being and Time (1927) the year before Scheler died. We do not know much about how he reacted to this new “cosmology”, but the following passage from a posthumous manuscript suggests that they did not belong to the same world: Heidegger understands quite correctly that Husserl’s notion of essences is false. But then he is only aware of contingencies, which is also false […] There is certainly an independence from relative time on the part of the cognition of essences. (2008: 329, 412)

Well, we have come a long way from the cradle of the Western civilization witnessing its constant renewal by means of the birth of different world-hypotheses constituting a discontinuous development until the present age where renovation is now impossible given the logical limits imposed by the Western thinking imagination. On the contrary, the state of western philosophy today is the best evidence that we have reached the logical limits of the philosophical imagination itself beginning with the present cosmology and ending with the present anthropology. This tradition has stopped doing philosophy because it cannot think something different from what has already been thought before. It cannot do what Plato, Augustine, Descartes, and Husserl-Heidegger have done in the past which was to imagine a different “cosmology” to which a new “anthropology” could correspond. Unfortunately, the Western way of thinking can no longer develop a new “cosmology” to move beyond the current state of world-hypothesis because a new world-hypothesis integrating the present world-hypothesis is logically impossible and, therefore, a new concept of human system is also impossible. So we are stuck with the last possible concept of human system enabled by the last possible world-hypothesis within the Western philosophy. Of course, a new concept of human system is logically possible but only from without Western world-hypothesis.


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

5.5  Cassirer’s Symbolic Animal So how does the Western civilization see itself today after the last concept of ourselves? The answer is to be found in the work of Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), who provided the corresponding anthropology to the current world-hypothesis in An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture (1944). Strictly speaking, he is not the last contemporary philosopher because both Dooyeweerd (1894–1977) and Hartmann (1882–1950) died after him and had written about the spiritual being after his major three-volume work was published, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923–1929). Furthermore, the influence of a new thinking imagination is found in the second volume of 1925 in which Husserl is credited for having both “sharpened once again our perception of the diversity of cultural ‘structural forms’” and offered a new method to investigate them “according to what they ‘signify’ and without concern for the ‘reality’ of their objects” (Ibid [1955]: 12). As we remember from Idea I (1913), Husserl had said that “all real unities are ‘unities of sense’. Unities of sense presuppose […] a sense-bestowing consciousness” and mentioned about a “phenomenology of cultural products”. Well, Cassirer did exactly that, an investigation of the symbolic forms constituting the mythical world. However, that cultural world was lacking the temporal dimension that Heidegger (1927), building on Husserl’s unpublished Ideas II (1925), would give it later and that Hartmann (1933) and Dooyeweerd (1935–1936) extended to the entire cosmos. So rather than defining the human world through the temporal aspect, Cassirer would cast man according to the meaning aspect of the cultural world making him a symbolical animal. What this philosopher aimed at in An Essay on Man (1944) was a “phenomenology of human culture” which investigated the different spheres of “objective meanings” within a cultural world constituted by “sense-bestowing” animals. Indeed, the cultural world was not a historical common spirit constituted by objective meanings separable from personal spirits and resting on a community, as we saw in Hartmann (1933). No, the cultural world rested on nothing but itself because, according to Cassirer, biological evolution has originated symbolic animal capable of living in a symbolic universe, a world of meanings. Symbolic language or symbolism was the condition of possibility of living in a human world not accessible to animals opening a “new dimension of reality” made possible by a creative mutation in the human species. This was basically his argument to justify the emergence of the human world in terms of biological evolution. That is, the human world now rests on a genetic change of biological organisms! Anyway, before proposing that scientific idea to ground his concept of human system, Cassirer (1925) started to investigate the world of meaning behind the different symbolic forms, namely, language, art, myth, and science. In particular, “such an investigation should include the mythical ‘world’ […] in order to apprehend it in a purely ideational analysis” (Ibid [1955]: 12). Once he had done so, he would be able to contrast the mythical function with “that of the linguistic, aesthetic, and logical functions”. This investigation would convince him that we cannot reduce man to rational nature if we want to do full

5.5  Cassirer’s Symbolic Animal


justice to his essence because not all symbolic forms of human culture can be reduced to logical analysis. In fact, Cassirer (1942) found out that there are other symbolic forms which are more fundamental than science, “the world of language and the world of art immediately afford us evidence of this pre-logical structuring, of this ‘stamped form’, which antecedently lies at the basis of logical concepts” (Ibid [1961]: 65). He was now drawn to believe that the subject matter of the humanities was “linguistic symbolism” and that we could no longer claim that the world given to our senses is prelinguistically constituted. “Language awareness – the awakening symbol consciousness - impresses its stamp upon observation and perception” (Ibid: 60). In other words, our experience is always mediated by language from the very moment we enter the world of language, our first “common world”. And since language is prior to logic, we cannot think without language, so both our seeing and thinking are linguistically constituted. Of course, Cassirer’s (1944) concept of symbolic animal had to be framed within a historical perspective. According to him, the way towards anthropology started with Socrates who managed to separate the “introvert view”, man, from the “extrovert view”, cosmology, which had been merged together before the birth of Western philosophy. In order for the transition to happen, pre-Socratic cosmology had to question the mythical consciousness, so the extrovert view could liberate itself from the primitive cosmology-anthropology. “It is in the problem of man that we find the landmark separating Socrates from pre-Socratic thought” (Ibid: 18). Cassirer assumes the two prejudices that we have already discussed: the transition from myth to reason, the Greek miracle, meaning that our ancestors did not think logically, and the change of focus in Greek philosophy from cosmology to man, as if Plato was only concerned with the human world: “the only universe he knows, and to which all his inquiries refer, is the universe of man” (Ibid: 19). We have already questioned both ideas showing that our ancestors were not primitive beings lacking a rational way of thinking and that “cosmology” as such did not start with the pre-Socratics but with Plato. To add more to this misunderstanding, Cassirer claims that “when we study Plato’s Socratic dialogues nowhere do we find a direct solution to the new problem […] he never ventures a definition of man” (Ibid.). In particular, Cassirer was referring to Plato’s Republic (c. 367 BC) when, to our surprise, we have shown how he worked out a concept of human system, the ideal city-state, logically consistent with his world-hypothesis, and defined man as an embodied soul constituted by three parts: rational, spirited, and appetitive. To continue with his story line: [It was not until] the publication of Darwin’s work On the Origin of Species […] [that] the true character of anthropological philosophy appeared to fixed once and for all. After innumerable fruitless attempts the philosophy of man stand at last on firm ground. (Ibid: 35)

The theory of evolution was a crucial event because we could demonstrate scientifically that all forms of life, including man, came from a common ancestor. However, this created a new problem: is human life something different from organic life? This answer, of course, could not come from the empirical sciences and their body of facts because “they all approached the problem from their own


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

view points. To combine or unify all these particular aspects […] was impossible” (Ibid: 40). On the contrary, citing Scheler, “the ever-growing multiplicity of particular sciences that are engaged in the study of men has much more confused and obscured that elucidated our concept of man” (Ibid.). The solution could not be found in the empirical sciences, by which he meant “psychology, ethnology, anthropology and history”, because “man lives in a symbolic universe” rather than in a world of facts. Facts are not enough to understand man because we “no longer can confront the reality immediately […] we cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of this artificial medium” (Ibid: 43). Symbolism is the principle that separates human life from organic life and is perfectly compatible with the laws of nature, according to Cassirer: The general theory of evolution in no sense stands in the way of the acknowledgement of this fact. Even in the field of the phenomena of organic evolution we have learned that evolution does not exclude a sort of original creation. The fact of sudden mutation and of emergent evolution has to be admitted. (Ibid: 49)

To round up his concept of the symbolic animal, he argues that apparent heterogeneity of the symbolic universe is constituted by a “functional unity”, a “dialectical unity, a coexistence of contraries”. Indeed, there is a “fundamental polarity” between “stabilization” and “evolution” in all human activities. While there are “fixed and stable forms of life”, there is “another tendency to break up this rigid scheme”, that is, “struggle between innovation and tradition”. This is the dualism intrinsic to “all domains of cultural life”. In particular, in myth we find stabilization and conservation, in language conservation and renovation, in art mainly innovation, and in science, presumably, both aspects of the fundamental polarity. Lastly, and perhaps the most problematic aspect of Cassirer’s (1942) concept of human system, the symbolic universe separates man from nature. Symbolism grants man “the power to build up a world of his own, an ‘ideal’ world”. Symbolic forms “are the true media – which man himself has created – by virtue of which he had been able to separate himself from the world” (Ibid [1961]: 74). In terms of the underlying world-­ hypothesis, symbolism is the condition of possibility of the independence of Spirit from Nature. As he himself puts it, “the genuine process of liberation which ‘spirit’, in contradistinction to ‘nature’, has brought to perfection” (Ibid.). It is now time to discuss the last concept of human system with what we know about the human world. First, is our utopic world constituted by symbolic forms, that is, language, myth, art, and science? Well, linguistically speaking, these are forms of expression we use to communicate something, but, as we know, the human world is constituted by realized ideas rather than by symbolic forms. So let us look at each of them to see if we are talking about the same things. In the case of myth, by definition, they do not constitute the real world because they are neither possible hypotheses that explain how it works nor possible ideas than can be realized in the human world. According to the way Cassirer (1925) characterizes myth, it “represents a unitary perspective of consciousness from which both nature and soul, both ‘outward’ and ‘inward’ being, appear in a new form” (Ibid [1955]: 20). Myth is a concrete symbolic form because, unlike language or the “world of signs”, it blends

5.5  Cassirer’s Symbolic Animal


two factors together, “thing” and “signification”. And, like science, it “seems to be in quest of the same thing: reality”. Clearly, myth does not constitute the human world because he identifies mythical consciousness with a “primitive mentality” about the natural world. In particular, the coherence of the symbolic forms constituting the mythical world “depends much more upon unity of feeling than upon logical rules”: “myth is an offspring of emotion”. This is the same prejudice of the non-logical thought against our ancestors that we have already discussed. By definition, the thinking imagination intrinsic to human systems is all about thinking and seeing something as being logically possible or impossible, and this has always defined the human world. As regards science, we discover possible hypothesis, but we do not realize them in the human world because they have always constituted the real world. And language, as a system of signs we use to communicate, does not realize ideas per se. All it can do is to express possible ideas that do constitute the real world by means of formalized languages such mathematics. Of course we can also realize ideas through language in the human world, but then we are not in the world of signs but in the sphere of art appreciated by human systems. Furthermore, the symbolic universe as pure symbolism does not constitute our human world because it misses the actual world we perceived with our senses. If the human world was nothing but a symbolic universe, then it would be far from a real world constituted by realized ideas and more like an imaginary world constituted by meanings. Indeed, most human systems do not live in a world of fiction, and even utopic systems are not detached from the actual world which they would like to change for a different possible world by working together with others for realizable utopias. To reiterate this point further, the human world is not an illusion or chimera we believe in but something real that utopic systems have worked hard to constitute realizing possible ideas. In other words, realized ideas are not fictions in our imagination because they constitute the real human world we experience daily. In addition, Cassirer talks about “man’s progressive self-liberation” by means of symbolic forms, but, in my opinion, to live in a world of fantasy is not a bad thing in itself because it is also part of our thinking imagination though it has a dark side to it, namely, escapism. To escape from the human world we have constituted through our utopic activity because we do not like it is indeed a bad thing if we do nothing about it other than hiding in a “new dimension of reality”. Indeed, that reality we prefer not to see will not disappear from not looking at it and inventing an imaginary world. On the contrary, it will always follow the escapist no matter where he hides because it is the human world he sees when he opens his eyes which is far from being a symbolic universe “in virtue of which he has been able to separate himself from the world”. It is time to compare this human world with our concept of system. Cassirer lays stress on the cultural life of symbolic animals, but it is difficult to imagine how the symbolic universe is an active system given that what acts is not the cultural world but a human system that lives according to the realized ideas in the human world. If symbolic forms do not inform our human activity, they are nothing but dead letter even though he goes as far as arguing that they constitute “a new sphere” in which they “have a life of their own, a sort of eternity by which they survive man’s


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

individual and ephemeral existence” (Ibid: 281). The world of science, in particular, may look like a world of timeless ideas, like mathematics, but the realized ideas constituting the human world do not exist until utopic systems have made them reality and even when they have done so, they can disappear at any time and most of them do so eventually. In short, ideas actually constitute the human world as long as active systems live according to them. If so, the human world is far from being a passive system, the self-subsistent realm of Spirit independent from Nature. What about the uniqueness of systems? The symbolic forms of science as the possible hypotheses that explain how the real world works are for everyone the same, that is, the laws of physics apply to all physical systems, in the same ways as the laws of biology, of neo-cybernetics, and of human science apply to all living, cybernetic, and utopic systems. However, every one of those systems within its entangled world is different from the others, whereas the laws that apply to each of those worlds are the same. Well, to argue for the diversity of the human world, Cassirer can always say that science only applies to one type of man and that there are other non-logical symbolic forms which also define our cultural life, such as myth and art. But, again, we cannot characterize the other types of men and our ancestors as emotional beings that do not think rationally. Certainly, we could try and do more justice to his proposal by differentiating the different types of symbolic animals according to “the proportion of the opposing factors”, the polarity of tradition-innovation. Then we would have two opposite types of men, the traditionalist related to myth living in the past and the innovative related to art breaking with the past, and, in between, we would have the conciliatory types of men, the linguists and the scientists, embracing stability and change. However, except for the artists, this typology would assume that human systems are constituted by the past-present duality intrinsic to cybernetic systems. Anyway, it is difficult to imagine how the symbolic forms of language and science being the same for everyone can constitute different rather than self-similar symbolic animals that see and think in the same way. As to the attribute of unity, Cassirer argues for a “dialectical unity” between the different symbolic forms which would unify the symbolic world, as a unity of contraries holding together emotional and rational forms of linguistic expression. Indeed, this seems to be the underlying dualism informing his concept of symbolic animal: emotion-­ reason. And if this is the case, then human systems are dualistic systems because those attributes are defined in opposition to each other. This does not mean that human systems do not have feelings as this is something intrinsic to constitution of cybernetic systems which we share. Finally, the human taxonomy we have suggested based on Cassirer’s logical premises implies that symbolic animals are continuous systems rather than discontinuous by nature because functional unity between heterogeneous symbolic forms implies the stability of the human world. It is also time to say something about self-determination. Cassirer’s concept of human freedom seems to be that of the self-liberation of Spirit from Nature. We are biological organisms that have evolved into symbolical animals by means of the natural selection of a random mutation of the genes of our species making possible symbolism, the world of linguistic meaning. This genetic change is “a sort of original creation”, and thus, according to Cassirer, “emergent evolution has to be

5.5  Cassirer’s Symbolic Animal


admitted”. However, once symbolism emerged as “a new dimension of reality” not afforded to animals, it has enabled a “process of man’s progressive self-liberation” from its biological constitution. If so, this means accepting the decoupling between “cosmology” and “anthropology” when, in fact, the different concepts of human system have always corresponded to a world-hypothesis making them logically possible since the cradle of Western civilization. The destiny of the last concept of human system is the destiny of the last world-hypothesis: the human world has said goodbye to the real world. Unfortunately, saying goodbye to the real world also means saying goodbye to the human world given that we have the same intrinsic constitution as the universe, so losing the “anatomy” of the universe implies losing the “anatomy” of the human world. What about all the things that matter to human systems? Well, they have also gone, because, except for art, none of the symbolic forms correspond to a different type of realized idea. In the case of myth and science, they are not realizable either because they are impossible ideas or because they already constitute the real world, and language is a means to express something, through which we could, though not always, realize ideas. Therefore, the domain of the human science is not linguistic symbolism but realized ideas which are related to those things that matter to human systems: plenty, justice, goodness, and beauty. In particular, what we might appreciate in art are not symbolic forms but realized ideas which are not necessarily expressed by means of symbols; we only have to think in the visual and performing arts. However, as we saw in relation to myth and science, Cassirer (1944) also believes that art is “in the quest of the same thing: reality”. “It is not an imitation but a discovery of reality” (Ibid: 184). But are the arts discovering reality in the same way as science and philosophy discover possible ideas that are true? Is it not the function of art to express a different type of possible idea which is neither scientific nor philosophical and which is also different from other types of realized ideas constituting the human world? To put it differently, is art in the quest of the same thing as science and philosophy: truth? No, in my opinion, what artistic systems are after when realizing aesthetic ideas is something different: beauty. This does not mean that the discovery of reality cannot be expressed beautifully by science and philosophy, however. Furthermore, we cannot say goodbye to the performing arts that realize possible idea through artistic activity. Likewise, we cannot say goodbye to the economic, legal, and ethical ideas constituting our human world which have been realized by utopic systems for millennia but are absent from Cassirer’s symbolic universe. We can now finish this chapter with another table (Table  5.2) including the anthropologies springing from all different world-hypothesis shaping the thinking imagination of the Western civilization informing the prehistory of human science Table 5.2 Western world-­ hypothesis and anthropologies

Periods Antique Medieval Modern Contemporary

World-hypotheses Sensible world Created world Material world Cultural world

Human systems City-state God-state Rational nature Symbolic animal


5  The Prehistory of Human Science

because none of those concepts of ourselves have been able to ground the scientific domain of utopics: the science of utopic systems. For that to happen, we have to discover who have been the scientists that have assumed our new anthropology to ground their discoveries and that requires a new chapter in the history of human science as such. We have to make one important remark before we move to the next chapter to discover the history of the birth of utopics. We have seen something surprising happening in the ill-defined domain of human studies. The modern “cosmology” grounding physics made logically possible four different concepts of human system, namely, civil society, human mind, utilitarian action, and human species. In turn, the logical splitting of the first gave way to political society and economic society. That result was that jurisprudence, sociology, psychology, economics, and anthropology were all informed by different concepts of human system. Well, imagine that the same had happened in the natural sciences, that within each of those domains of science we had different concepts with nothing in common. If that had been the case, the unification of physics or biology would have been logically impossible. More surprising is the fact that between those two domains of science and human science, there is still another domain, consisting in physiology, psychology, and ethology, in need of unification, neo-cybernetics, which depended on grounding a great discovery made by Ross Ashby (Appendix II) on a new world-­ hypothesis. Logically speaking, that gap in the domain of science made the unification of human science even more difficult as it had to wait until the neo-cybernetic synthesis has been accomplished. This means that, contrary to what Cassirer believed, the evolutionary synthesis was not the firm ground of the “cultural sciences” because there was still another domain of science not accounted for which contradicted the Nature-Spirit dualism. Indeed, in cybernetics systems, the organism and its environment are part of the same system and cannot be separated because they are functionally dependent. And, therefore, the human constitution cannot be decoupled from the cybernetic constitution, that is, the stimuli we recognize in the environment are not mediated by language and we cannot use the theory of evolution to justify the emergence of “a new dimension of reality” in which separated man from the environment. So we have to get rid of that assumption because accepting that symbols mediate our experience is equivalent to denying the functional dependence between the organism (brain) and its environment. Assuming, as Cassirer (1944) does, that “between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the symbolic system” (Ibid: 42–43) is another way of saying that the laws of the human world are independent from the laws that apply to the cybernetic world. Lastly, we do not need to ground human science either on biology or neo-­ cybernetics but on a new world-hypothesis grounding all science and making logically possible a new concept of human system. After all, we have shown that it is possible to do philosophy again from without Western philosophy!



References Augustine. (426 AD) [1913]. The city of god. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Austin, J. (1832) [1861]. The province of jurisprudence determined. London: John Murray. Becker, H., Barnes, H. E. (1938) [1961]. Social thought from lore to science. New York: Dover Publications. Bentham, J. (1789) [1907]. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Cassirer, E. (1925) [1955]. The philosophy of symbolic forms: Mythical thought (Vol. 2). New Heaven: Yale University Press. Cassirer, E. (1942) [1961]. The logic of the humanities. New Heaven: Yale University Press. Cassirer, E. (1944). An Essay on Man: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture. USA: Yale University Press. Descartes, R. (1637) [1913]. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and of seeking truth in the sciences. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. Descartes, R. (1641) [1912]. Meditations on first philosophy. London: J.M. Dent & Sons. Dooyeweerd, H. (1935–1936) [2013]. A new critique of theoretical thought. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. Gierke, O. (1873) [2002]. Community in historical perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gierke, O. (1902). [1935]. The nature of human associations. In J.  D. Lewis (Ed.), (1935) The Genossenschaft theory of Otto von Gierke. Madison: University of Wisconsin Studies. Hartmann, N. (1933) [2007]. El Problema Del Ser Espiritual. Investigaciones para la fundamentación de la filosofía de la historia y de las ciencias del espíritu. Buenos Aires: Leviatán. Heidegger, M. (1927) [2001] Being and time. London: Blackwell. Hobbes, T. (1642) [1949]. The Cive or the citizen. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Hobbes, T. (1651) [1909]. The Leviathan. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hume, D. (1739) [2000]. A treatise of human nature. New York: Oxford University Press. Husserl, E. (1913) [1983]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: General introduction to a pure phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Husserl, E. (1925, 1952) [1989]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: Studies in the phenomenology of constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Jevons, W. S. (1871). The theory of political economy. London/New York: Macmillan and. Kant, E. (1798) [1974]. Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Koyré, A. (1939). Études Galiléennes. Paris: Hermann. Lubbock, J. (1865). Pre-Historic Times, As Illustrated by Ancient Remains, and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages. London: Williams & Norgate. Mannheim, K. (1923–1928) [1952]. Essays on the sociology of knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mill, J. (1829) [1878]. Analysis of the phenomena of the human mind. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer. Morgan, L. H. (1877). Ancient society or researches in the lines of human progress from savagery, through barbarism to civilization. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Plato. (367 BC) [1971]. Republic. London: Heron Books. Plato. (370 BC) [1997] Plato’s Parmenides. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. Scheler, M. (1913/1916) [1973]. Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values. A new attempt towards the foundation of an ethical personalism. Evaston: Northwestern University Press. Scheler, M. (1926) [2000]. La idea del hombre y la historia. Elaleph. Scheler, M (1928) [2001]. El puesto del hombre en el cosmos. Librodot. Tönnies, F. (1887) [2001]. Community and Civil Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Thomsen, C.J. (1836). Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed. Copenhaguen: S.L. Møllers bogtr.

Chapter 6

The History of the Birth of Utopics

6.1  The Knowledge Cultures This chapter is about the birth of human science as such whose domain was specified while investigating the question of how is human science possible and discovering that the human world is constituted by different types of realized ideas that demarcate the different subdomains of utopics: economics (goods), jurisprudence (norms), ethics (values), aesthetics (arts). If we compare our finding with the way in which the human sciences were previously demarcated from the natural sciences, we have to remember Dilthey’s (1883) distinction between mental facts of inner experience and natural facts of outer experience to identify the analysis of the former as the proper subject matter of the human studies. Later in Dilthey (1910), he modified his position slightly arguing that their subject matter was the “understanding” of the objects created by cognition, that is, “objectivations of life in the external world” which could be experienced internally from observable facts. Now that we know about the intrinsic structure of utopics systems, we can acknowledge that Dilthey’s proposals were trying to separate the inner from the outer which is impossible given that they are simultaneous components which, together with present and future, constitute the actuality-possibility duality of the human world. In fact, the discovery of human knowledge (science and philosophy) is explained by the simultaneity of actuality-possibility, that is, because of the coincidence of possible ideas and actual facts. In addition, based on the present world-hypothesis in which reality is constituted by objective meanings, Cassirer (1942) considered that the subject matter of the “cultural sciences” was linguistic symbolism writing that “the science of culture teaches us to interpret symbols in order to decipher their latent meaning, to make visible again the life from which they originally came into being” (Ibid [1961]: 158). This proposal is not very useful given that he was defining human culture as the domain of linguistic expression (myth, language, art and science) without specifying what constitutes the domain human science. To put it differently, © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_6



6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

while Dilthey hoped to define the human studies so as not leave out any of the possible disciples which could bring some light into man as a psycho-physical living unity, Cassirer’s concept of human system as symbolic animal eliminated the demarcation within knowledge itself because all knowledge is expressed linguistically. Unfortunately, when we lose the way to identify the different domains of knowledge, every possible linguistic symbolism created by a symbolic animal becomes knowledge. If so, we could write a linguistically expressed history of the human sciences without any regard to the actual discoveries made in this particular domain of science. In fact, this fictional possibility, which would be an absolute absurdity in other domains of science, has been carried out by Roger Smith (1997) as a “linguistic and symbolic discourse” corresponding to “the history of the way cultures picture themselves to themselves” which “is itself a human science” (Ibid: 870). But what is human science then? According to Smith, “in this book, the term is firstly a label of convenience”. Now, since we are symbolic animals, any one of us can use a term and give it the meaning he considers convenient, especially when there is no agreement between symbolic animals on what human science means. If this is the case, the implication of the prevalent world-hypothesis is narrativism. So we can have as many histories of the human sciences as the possible narratives about ourselves we can put together and thus writing the history of human science becomes storytelling. Imagine historians of science inventing a tale about a given domain of science which they could each define in a convenient way! These historians could choose what to include and exclude as they found convenient for their different narratives. Some would claim that Thales is the father of physics rather than Galileo, while others would say that Lamarck discovered the theory of evolution before Darwin. This is absurd and fortunately does not happen in those domains of science because there is a consensus on what is that scientists are studying and what are the mayor discoveries in their fields. Why should it be different in other domains of science, if they all consist in discovering the laws that explain how different types of entangled systems work? It is certainly not the case in the domain of neo-cybernetics with a long prehistory of scientific discoveries that began in 1800 (Appendix II). This does not mean that today there any agreement on what a cybernetic system is because the so-called cognitive science paradigm still assumes that the organism (brain) is separate from its environment and that the brain models or parallels the environment. Despite assuming a central-periphery chasm, it has not prevented cognitive scientists agreeing on what they are supposed to be studying, the brain as a computing machine. This is a good example showing how the agreement on what information processing is has led nowhere in terms of scientific discoveries explaining how the cybernetic world works. We could even argue that the failure of the so-called cognitive revolution was a failure of the symbolic animal given that information processing is symbol manipulation. In the case of human science, however, the situation is even more problematic because, besides lacking a concept of human system, there is no consensus on what group of sciences are in charge of explaining how the human world works. Indeed,

6.1 The Knowledge Cultures


the “cultural sciences” that Cassirer was speaking of and today’s so-called social sciences do not coincide, not even partly! On the one hand, according to Cassirer (1942), the cultural sciences include “history, classical studies, archaeology, the critical study of literature and art, comparative mythology, and the comparative study of religion” which became stablished in the nineteenth century (Ibid [1961]: 86–87). On the other hand, for the psychologist Jerome Kagan (2009), the social sciences are a “third culture” represented by anthropology, sociology, political science, economics and psychology. And as to the other “two cultures” made famous by Snow (1959), we have the “literary intellectuals at one pole – at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientist. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension” (Ibid [1998]: 4). Interestingly, Snow says that the two cultures are different because they focus on the use of different human talents, the scientific culture on the “language of symbols” and the literary culture on the “language of words”. The scientist is good at using “symbolic systems of thought” but his “verbal faculties” are not very developed, whereas the opposite is true in the case of the “man of letters”. Again, this is Cassirer’s definition of human beings as symbolic animals. Likewise, for Kagan (2009), “culture is a community of persons who share the same symbolic meanings” (Ibid: 107). So, apparently, now human knowledge is represented by different cultures living in the own symbolic universes: “natural scientists (physicists, chemists, and biologists), social scientists, and humanists” (Ibid: 2). In contrast, according to our investigation, the domain of utopics includes the sciences that study those heterogeneous aspects of the human world constituted by utopic systems: economic, legal, ethical and artistic. Paradoxically, for Cassirer, the “science of culture” only includes one of those aspects, the artistic, understood as the discovery of reality, while for Snow and Kagan, art is equivalent to literary criticism. Furthermore, except for economics, to which Kagan devotes nearly a whole chapter and Snow (1963) only mentions as an afterthought, jurisprudence and ethics are not considered human sciences. Surprisingly, Kagan (2009) does mention values in relation to political science and economics and goes as far as to claim that it was not a coincidence that economics was born in Great Britain. England and Scotland in the middle of the eighteenth century were the most secular, individualistic, egalitarian regions in Europe […] Thus, England was a likely place to grow scholars motivated to probe the relation between the economy of a society and the state of its citizens. (Ibid: 178)

Indeed, he claims that Hume and Smith, who “are regarded as the parents of this domain”, were the first to recognize “that historical changes in the modes of production and material exchange within their society were exerting an important effect on individual actions, values, and motives” (Ibid: 175). This is like saying that the economic aspect only started to influence the human world with the birth of the Industrial Revolution (1760) when the members of society became self-interested individuals! However, the economic aspect has been part of the human world even before the Neolithic Revolution when our ancestors changed from hunting and gathering to agriculture around 10.000 BC, the so-called First Agricultural Revolution. In fact, the archaeological evidence of our tool-making ancestors suggests the


6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

existence of a subsistence economy in which human systems worked together doing different things to satisfy their basic needs. Presumably, this work occupied most the life of the majority of human systems even after those technological revolutions had taken place. In claiming that economics was born in Britain, Kagan was far from realizing the influence that the modern world-hypothesis had exerted in that sphere of knowledge. In a world made of individual bodies coexisting next to each in reciprocal interaction, it was perfectly logical to think that the economy was made of self-interested individuals working alone and mutually exchanging their labour produce. Provided that the development of the domain of utopics is made possible by assuming a concept of human system corresponding to our new world-hypothesis, the implication will be to question the commonly held fathers of the different human sciences and to search for the actual founders of economics, jurisprudence, ethics and aesthetics guided by our new concept of utopic system. In the case of economics, for instance, it will mean showing that it was not born in Scotland with Adam Smith (1776) but nearly a century later in Austria with Carl Menger (1871). In other words, the history of the birth of utopics has different heroes some of which are known and others are not sufficiently credited. Paradoxically, as we will see, there other founding fathers which are totally unknown in their own fields due to the blinding effect of the current world-hypothesis. In saying so, I have in mind the founders of ethics and aesthetics which are not even regarded as sciences to this day but rather as branches of philosophy when their subject matters do not belong to the domain of world-hypothesis. In the case of jurisprudence, the credit normally goes to an English legal theorist, John Austin (1832), when the foundational contribution to legal science was made a century later by an Austrian jurist, Hans Kelsen (1934). Unlike the other domains of science, the birth of utopics did not result from the discovery of a general theory by one scientist, because it emerged from the work of several human systems working on different subject matters between the last third of the nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries. But to be able to separate the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, a new cosmology with its corresponding new anthropology was required. We credit Galileo as being the father of modern science, and we acknowledge that biology became a science with Darwin, but why should we have any doubt about who were the actual founding fathers of human science? In the case of neo-cybernetics, this same question has been answered in my previous work (Appendix II) showing how physiology, psychology and ethology are unified by Ashby’s general theory of adaptive behaviour provided that this new domain of science is grounded on a new world-hypothesis. So in the present chapter, we are going to do the something similar. We will start distinguishing the history of economic, ethical, legal and aesthetic thought from the birth of human science as such by comparing the assumed with the actual founders of utopics. And to do so, we have to do justice to historical priority by starting with the first subdomain that became a science, economics, thanks to the work of its founding father, Carl Menger (1840–1921). We can also say that despite this first beginning in human science, they must all be regarded as founding fathers of utopics because they were working in different subject matters within human science meaning that none of them has a

6.1 The Knowledge Cultures


scientific priority over the others. In fact, as regards ethics, the foundation is shared by two philosophers we have already discussed, Max Scheler (1874–1928) and Nicolai Hartmann (1882–1950), who are also the sole founder of aesthetics. Indeed, we have an exceptional case in which one founding father contributed to the foundation of two different human sciences through two different works, namely, Ethics (1926) and Aesthetics (1953), posthumously published. Before we enter into the foundation of economics as a human science, a few comments seem relevant for a better understanding of how a world-hypothesis shapes the thinking imagination of scientists investigating different subject matters. In the case of neo-cybernetics (Appendix II), for instance, Ashby’s foundational ideas on adaptive behaviour that made possible his development of a general theory (1939–1953) were actually given up when his thinking imagination was seduced by the cybernetic movement led by Wiener and McCulloch. Ironically, this happened when he had just made this mayor discovery explaining how cybernetic systems are able to maintain a stable equilibrium with their environment by means of information forgetting. To add more irony, Ashby is usually remembered in cybernetics as the father of the Law of Requisite Variety which, in fact, assumes the separation between the organism (brain) and the environment, the regulator and the system to be regulated. Furthermore, it was 9 months after his discovery of the mechanism of adaptive behaviour in February 1953 that he came up with the first formulation of that “law” for which he is remembered. Unfortunately, his mind had been divided between discovering the laws of the cybernetic world and the design of machines based on those same laws, and the search for the universal mechanism of adaptive behaviour was eventually replaced by the mechanism of regulation and control. What he did not realize, however, was that he had given up this major scientific discovery. In fact, towards the end of this live, he even embraced the “central-­ periphery chasm” with the Conant-Ashby theorem (1970) which meant assuming the separation between the brain and its model of the environment it wants to regulate: “every good regulator of a system must be a model of that system”. Paradoxically, when Ashby pondered in 1956 in his journal what had been his mayor contribution at “the end of the hunt”, he had no doubt in claiming that it was the discovery of “how the brain worked” rather than how the organism with its environment worked together as a cybernetic system. This just goes to show how important is to ground scientific discoveries on world-hypothesis before they disappear in the eyes of a blinding world-hypothesis. Indeed, in the case of Ashby, he was writing the history of neo-cybernetics in his journal before the history of the cybernetic movement eclipsed his thinking imagination. This can also be the fate of major discoveries in the domain of utopics if they are no grounded on a world-hypothesis. However, we will not carry out this investigation beyond the contributions of its founders to trace the further developments by others because writing an accomplished history of the domain of utopics requires that the new world-hypothesis is accepted before we can judge the importance of other discoveries. The state of the domain of utopics today is similar to the state of both physical science before the Newtonian synthesis and biological science prior to the evolutionary synthesis when it was impossible to write a full history of those


6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

domains of science. For that to happen, we had to wait until Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and Mayr’s The Growth of Biological Thought (1982) and the same applies to neo-cybernetics whose establishment as new domain of science is still pending today, that is, nearly 70 year after Ashby had already completed his general theory of cybernetic. Another interesting feature of the birth of utopics is that its foundational discoveries were all made from 1871 to 1950, that is, prior to the Ashby’s neo-cybernetic synthesis. And, unlike Ashby’s (2008) Journal (1928–1972) that was made available 36  years after his death, all the founding fathers of utopics published their scientific theories during their lifetime or just after like Hartmann’s Aesthetics (1953). So let us trace the history of human science starting from the beginning.

6.2  The Foundation of Economics In comparison to the other human sciences, economics seems to be the most developed discipline in terms of contributions and as such has not been short of competent historians. Maybe the first comprehensive history of the field was Schumpeter’s (1954) unfinished History of Economic Analysis covering most of western economic thought from ancient Greece until 1914 (and later). In terms of periodization, he distinguished three periods in the history of economics: the first finishes with the first systematic treatise, Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), the second goes from 1790 until 1870, and the final includes, in addition to the “German historical school”, the “marginal utility school” associated with Jevons (1871), Menger (1871) and Walras (1874). Having said this, he also suggested a pre-analytic period from 1919 to 1930 in which Keynes’s “vision” had not been successfully materialized into “scientific propositions” until The General Theory Employment, Interest and Money (1936) which, by the way, he did not held in high esteem. Schumpeter’s (1954) hero was without doubt “Walras, whose system of equations, defining (static) equilibrium in a system of interdependent quantities, is the Magna Carta of economic theory” (Ibid [2006]: 233). In addition, we also have to mention another historian of economics, Stingler (1941), who covered the so-called marginalist revolution from 1870 to 1895 claiming that “it was in this quarter-century that economic theory was transformed from an art, in many respects literary, to a science of growing rigor” (Ibid [1949]: 1). Though Schumpeter talks about vision as the ideological element entering economics through its analytical apparatus and Stingler about the correspondence between “pure” economic theory and “facts”, both share the idea that economics is a “field of logic, essentially mathematical in nature”, without realizing that logical possibility only comes into play within a world-­ hypothesis shaping what our thinking imagination conceives as being logically possible or impossible. However, this view of economics as a field consisting in building mathematical models is the one that prevails in the today’s textbooks and has its earliest example in Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947).

6.2 The Foundation of Economics


Interestingly, what has also gone unnoticed is that this way of thinking in economics is in keeping with the present world-hypothesis since mathematical models are the symbolic forms in science. Indeed, according to Cassirer (1944), “science no longer speaks the language of common-sense experience; it speaks the Pythagorean language” (Ibid: 270). And therefore, today’s economics is not free from the influence of the prevalent world-hypothesis, in the same way as the so-called classical economics, of Adam Smith (1776) was shaped by the previous world-hypothesis. So rather than accepting the agreement among historians that economics became a science after the “marginalist revolution” around 1900, we first start the prehistory of economics with Smith’s Wealth of Nations to show how his thinking imagination was shaped by the then prevailing world-hypothesis and then question the claim that Jevons, Menger and Walras all discovered the same “theory of subjective value”. On the contrary, I will argue that, unlike Jevons and Walras, Menger discovered a theory of value assuming the concept of utopic system and, by doing so, founded economics as a human science. In contrast, historians assume that economics was born, albeit not as exact science, with Smith who wrote the first systematic treatise in the field of political economy so stating with this sphere of knowledge seems a good entry point to the prehistory of economics. In order to understand what political economy meant to Smith, we should place his treatise in relation to the more general domain of knowledge to which it belonged. Originally, Hobbes had divided human knowledge into the study of natural bodies, natural philosophy, in which he included ethics, and the study of artificial bodies, political and civil philosophy. As we remember, there were two mayor “systems of people”, the dependent political and private bodies and the independent and absolute political body, the sovereign power. Well, just like an original contract could constitute a civil state, the state cold also allow the creation of a dependent private system to carry out economic activities such as producing and selling goods, paying wages to their workers, rent to landowners, earning a profit and, of course, pay the state taxes to the dependent political bodies. Therefore, there was a logical space for an inquiry into a sphere of knowledge different from moral philosophy, political economy. Unlike Hobbes, Smith (1759) did not believe that moral philosophy was a matter of self-interest individuals living in the state of nature in which equal individuals had an equal natural right to all. No, he believed that individuals are endowed with an equal dose of sympathy towards the fate of others since we can image ourselves in the place of others suffering “grief or joy” and this fellow-feeling reduces our self-love. Of course, this did not mean that all individuals were altruistic by nature. “Among equals each individual is naturally […] regarded as having a right to both to defend himself from injuries, and to exact a certain degree of punishment for those which have been done to him” (Ibid [1982]: 80). However, in thinking this way, we were no longer in the domain of moral philosophy but within that of “law and government” of which political economy was the part covering “police, revenue, and arms” and the other part being “justice”. Unfortunately, after having written the Wealth of Nations (1776), Smith was not very optimistic about being able to accomplish “what remains, the theory of jurisprudence […] my very advanced age leaves me, I acknowledge, very little expectation of ever being able to execute this great work to my own satisfaction” (Ibid [1790]: Advertisement).


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Anyway, though every man can feel sympathy towards others, there was something more prevalent in our daily life, self-care. Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care, and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so. Every man, therefore, is much more deeply interested in whatever immediately concerns himself, than in what concerns any other man. (Ibid: 82–83)

Smith saw no contradiction in holding at the same time that individuals can have fellow-feelings for others in terms of moral philosophy and be self-interested when it comes to the domain of “law and government”. After all, Hobbes had already said that in the state of nature “peace is to be sought after, where it may be found”, if not, self-care should prevail. Similarly, it would be against reason and thus unfit and wrong to care about others if our own care is not ensured. In other words, benevolent actions only come into consideration after our needs have been meet. Therefore, I presume Smith would say that most people are self-interested individuals not because they do not have fellow-feelings but because they must first care for themselves in order to afford to help others in need. Of course, in the case of the economy, everyone is in the business of satisfying their own needs by means of working either for themselves in the case of entrepreneurs or for others selling their labour so they can later exchange that produce for “all the necessities and conveniences of life”. And not to be able to fend for ourselves because we are helping others would be an injustice even if the action is morally approved by Smith’s (1759) “impartial observer”. Indeed, political economy was something different from moral philosophy but related to justice because they both belonged to the same domain of “law and government”. This is the place that political economy occupied in the mind of the Scottish philosopher, somewhere within political and civil philosophy as its sphere of knowledge coexisted within “law and government” given that it studied the wealth creation of the private bodies subjected to the nation-state. But how did Smith imagine production of the Wealth of Nations (1776) by self-caring individuals fending for themselves? Well, he put to work his thinking imagination within the logical possibilities granted by the first concept of human system that sprang from the modern world-hypothesis. He wanted to work out that space of “the liberty of subjects” within the civil-society allowed by civil law to ensure “the nutrition, and procreation of a commonwealth”, to use the headings of a couple of chapters of the Leviathan (1651). When we look at the structure of the Wealth of Nations (1776), we find the essentials in the first seven chapter of Book I devoted to explain how the produce of labour is increased and how the resulting wealth is “distributed among the ranks of the people”. This is the private space made of self-interested individuals working alone and mutually exchanging their labour produce. The first chapter covers the first part of the sentence, the division of labour, and the second chapter the other part, the propensity to exchange. The third chapter argues that the produce of labour is “limited by the extent of the market”, namely, the external impediments, and the following chapters constitute Smith’s theory of value. This brief synthesis shows how this work has been shaped by the logical possibilities enabled by the

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modern world-hypothesis. Let us now discuss the relevant chapters to see this in more detail. In the introduction, Smith identifies the wealth of a nation with the produce of labour required to satisfy the needs of its people either directly or through “what is purchased with that produce from other nations”. Of course, the nation is a not natural body but a human artefact, and therefore, its labour produce depends on the skill and the number of people employed in useful work. This means that there are people who produce rather than only consume wealth, but, unlike for “savage nations of hunters and fishers”, this is not a problem for “civilized and thriving nations” because their labour produce is enough for all society. But what has actually improved from savage to civilized nations? Basically, labour is now more productive due to the introduction of an innovation, the division of labour. Before many works were done by one single individual doing many things, but in the emerging industrial society, work is being split into multiple operations carried out by different people increasing the produce of labour. Smith choses an interesting example to prove his point, pin-making in a factory. This work is divided into “eighteen distinct operations, which in some manufactures are all performed by distinct hands though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them” (Ibid [1937]: 4–5). Ten people working “separately and independently” “could not each of them have made twenty”, but with the division of labour, they can produce up to 48,000 pins in a day. Besides being an obvious fact, what may go unnoticed is that Smith is applying the modern way of thinking by claiming that working alone doing the same thing is much more productive than working alone doing different things. In other words, he is assuming that labour produce depends on “working alone” and, hence, that human systems are not entangled systems sharing the same level of organization working together doing different things. Furthermore, “working alone” is not only more productive in factories with the division of labour but also in philosophy and science. “Each individual becomes more expert in his own peculiar branch, more work is done upon the whole, and the quantity of science is considerably increased by it” (Ibid: 12). Ironically, scientists and philosophers are less productive when thinking alone than when thinking together. It is an obvious fact that scientific discovery depends on knowing what has already been discovered in a given domain of science and, thus, thinking alone can be very unproductive. Anyway, the division of labour increased the quantity of productive labour that could be exchanged for an equivalent quantity of someone else’s productive labour, that is, people could now exchange their labour produce in terms of goods for other goods produced by others also working alone. And this is when the full modern world-hypothesis makes its appearance given that it assumes that all bodies coexist next to each other interacting reciprocally. Exactly, the division of labour, according to Smith, is the consequence of “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another”. So though people work alone in “civilized nations”, they are not isolated from each other but reciprocally connected by that natural propensity. Self-­ interested individuals fending for themselves need each other for all those things they cannot produce alone. “In civilized society he stands at all times in need of the


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co-operation and assistance of great multitudes” (Ibid: 15). However, he is explicit that this propensity does not arise from fellow-feelings, that is, from sympathy, but from self-love. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest” (Ibid: 15). In fact, it is this disposition to exchange “which originally gives occasion to the division of labour”. In addition, the production and exchange of labour produce supporting mutual self-care would result in unlimited wealth creation if it was not that for an external impediment restricting the division of labour, the extent of the market. This is what limits the liberty of individuals which, as we know from Hobbes, is defined by the absence of external impediments, so individuals continue producing and exchanging unless disturbed by something external. There is one final touch left if we want the production and exchange of labour within the nation to work smoothly, money. This human artefact enables the exchange of each other’s surplus produce to buy the goods they cannot produce alone. Indeed, people can buy each other’s labour produce with money. Money, introduced after the division of labour, enabled the exchange between people which were not able to exchange their labour produce for other goods produced by other people. “It is in this manner that money has become in all civilized nations the universal instrument of commerce, by the intervention of which goods of all kinds are bought and sold, or exchanged for one another” (Ibid: 29). However, how could we know how much money was our labour produce worth in order to exchange it for something equivalent? Surely, the value of our produced goods we want to exchange has to correspond somehow to the amount of labour we have put into them. Indeed, “the real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it” (Ibid: 31). This is Smith’s theory of value: the value of a good is equivalent to the quantity of labour required to producing it. He even claimed that the price of the different components needed to produce a good, namely, wages, profit and rent, could be measured in terms of “the quantity of labour which they can […] purchase or command” (Ibid: 52). And the natural rate at which those components are paid determines the natural price of a good which can be above, below or coincide with the market price, “the actual price at which any commodity is commonly sold”. I presume that Smith would conclude that in a nation in which those two prices do not differ much, the wealth produced by labour is equally “distributed among the ranks of people”: the workers earning a wage, the manufacturers a profit and the landlords a rent. For Smith, equally distributed did not necessarily mean fairly distributed, but we cannot speculate on this matter because he never wrote his “long projected” work, “the theory of jurisprudence”. From the Wealth of Nations (1776) to Menger’s Principles of Economics (1871), there is nearly a century, and, surely, something else must have happened that deserves to be mentioned after Smith. Indeed, there were two major figures, the school founded around David Ricardo (1772–1823), including James Mill (1821) and McCulloch (1825), and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). In the case of Ricardo, his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) starts with a criticism of Smith’s theory of value as labour but assumes its premises throughout the whole book. According to Schumpeter (1954), “Ricardo’s theoretical structure represents

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a particular way of recoining the Wealth” (Ibid [2006]: 447). But J.S Mill’s Principles of Political Economy (1848) was a different story because, contrary to Smith, he could not help his “social philosophy” from entering the field of political economy. To understand this better, we need to start with his previous work on the scientific method, A System of Logic (1843), in which we find a book on the “the logic of the moral sciences”. There he tells us that political economy is about the study of social phenomena that result “solely from the desire of wealth”, that is, we must abstract from this inquiry “every other human passion or motive” which could explain other social phenomena. “Political Economy considers mankind as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth” (Ibid [1882]: 624). In turn, Mill claims that this human passion is grounded on a psychological law, namely, “the greater gain is preferred to a smaller” and, in terms of political economy, “to prefer a greater portion of wealth to a smaller”. However, this law seems to contradict the desire of wealth if, according to him, it is constituted by “the two perpetual counter-motives”: acquiring and consuming wealth. Does not wealth consumption reduce labour production? Lastly, and the most instructive, he questions the assumption that labour produce is “shared among three classes”, “laborers, capitalists and landlords”, and that “all these are free agents, permitted […] to set upon their labor, their capital, and their land, whatever price they are able to get for it” (Ibid: 625). On what grounds did he question this distribution of wealth? Basically, he argued that society could be arranged differently than in England and Scotland as it was the case in India, France and Ireland, for instance. Indeed, Mill criticized British political economists for assuming “the immutability of the arrangements of society” as “universal and absolute truths”. In particular, in the Principles (1848), he discussed other possible social orders such as communism and socialism. Why is this instructive for economics? Well, we could say the Mill was a good example of a utopic system that was uncomfortable with the prevailing order in the Victorian era and fought against slavery and for women’s rights, for instance, and was open-minded when it came to think in alternative ways of wealth distribution within civil-society. In fact, the latter came from believing that production and distribution of wealth did not follow the same laws. The laws and conditions of the Production of Wealth partake of the character of physical truths. There is nothing optional or arbitrary in them. It is not so with the Distribution of Wealth. That is the matter of human institution solely. The things once there, mankind, individually or collectively, can do with them as they like. (Ibid [1884]: 155)

If there are no immutable laws in the distribution of wealth, then we can change property laws which would alter the current social order. However, by claiming so, Mill was stepping out of “political economy” and into the an alternative possible human world, but without knowing that he was also stepping out of human science itself because the same “laws” of economics will always apply no matter how we change “the institution of property”. We could consider “a system of community of property and equal distribution of the produce” as a possible idea worth pursuing, indeed, but the principles of economics would apply equally even in that communistic world. But one wonders if this possible state of affairs would do justice to the


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nature of utopics systems who not only work together to satisfy their needs but also whether plenty itself could not be better achieved by working together at different levels of organization. If so, does the dichotomy between “state-help” (collectivism) and “self-help” (individualism) make sense? We are too ignorant either of what individual agency in its best form, or socialism in its best form, can accomplish, to be qualified to decide which of the two will be the ultimate form of human society. If a conjecture may be hazarded, the decision will probably depend mainly on one consideration, viz., which of the two systems is consistent with the greatest amount of human liberty and spontaneity. (Ibid: 160)

The writer of On Liberty (1859) was a good example of a utopic system looking into future as something possible because he was not satisfied with the actual state of things in the British Empire. So even though his work on political economy was not an actual contribution to economics as such, his error of mixing it with “social philosophy” was very instructive and may be the key to its success. According to Schumpeter (1954), Mill’s Principles (1848) “was responsible for the most successful and most influential treatise of that age” and was “much more evenly distributed over all countries in which economics received attention, than was that of Ricardo’s” (Ibid: 506, 508). To close this period, we also have to mention Marx’s first volume of Capital (1867) proposing a labour theory of value though it is more a prophecy leading to a different social order than a treatise on political economy. I do not mean to oversimplify the prehistory of economics as our purpose is to show how the thinking imagination of political economists has been shaped by the modern world-hypothesis. Furthermore, the influence of Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) was also felt in the way they defined their subject matter which was not clearly distinguished from “civil and political philosophy” and with time it came close to “social philosophy”, that is, from being related to “law and government” to becoming a “class-struggle” between capital and labour. We only have to compare what they said about their subject matter to notice this change. For Marx (1867), “Political Economy can remain a science only so long as the class-struggle is latent or manifests itself in isolated and sporadic phenomena” (Ibid [1906]: 17). In this regard, he claims that Ricardo was the first to start with the antagonism “of wage and profits, of profits and rent” and that Mill “tried to harmonize the Political Economy of capital, with the claims, no longer to be ignored, of the proletariat […] in his attempt to reconcile the irreconcilables” (Ibid: 18–19). How different from Smith’s (1776) political economy whose object is “to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or more properly to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves” (Ibid [1937]: 397). Being more compromising, Mill (1848) would also include “directly or remotely, the operation of all the causes by which the condition of mankind […] is made prosperous or the reverse” (Ibid [1884]: 47). However, despite those differences, political economists agreed that their science was about explaining the production and distribution of wealth within civil society. But is political economy really the study of the social phenomena arising from mankind’s desire of wealth, as Mill would put it? If so, why does it not focus on this underlying “human passion” grounded on a psychological law, “to prefer a greater

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portion of wealth to a smaller”? Maybe that was the missing focus of The Theory of Political Economy (1871)? Indeed, Jevons thought he had found the essence of this field whose development would require finding a way to measure that desire for wealth. Maybe that human motivation could be conceived as a “Calculus of Pleasure and Pain”? However, defining wealth in terms of pleasure and pain would mean replacing the labour theory of value for a theory of utility in which “value depends entirely upon utility”. We have only to trace out carefully the natural laws of the variation of utility, as depending upon the quantity of commodities in our possession, in order to arrive at a satisfactory theory of exchange, of which the ordinary laws of supply and demand are a necessary consequence. (Ibid: 2)

Jevons could define the subject matter of political economy differently since the value of goods was no longer related to “the toil and trouble of acquiring it”, that is, the produce of labour, but to the enjoyment of goods. In short, the focus was no longer on wealth production but on wealth consumption. Though Mill had noticed “the two perpetual counter-motives”, for him, the desire for a “greater portion” of wealth acquisition was more important given that wealth distribution depended on wealth production. Once the concept of wealth had been redefined, the domain of economics had changed. “The object of economy is to maximise happiness by purchasing pleasure, as it were, at the lowest cost of pain” (Ibid: 27). As we mentioned in the last chapter, Bentham’s (1789) concept of utilitarian action made it into economics through Jevons. This English economist had bypassed the logical route taken by Smith’s thinking imagination in avoiding Hobbes’s (1651) concept of civil society. By doing so, political economy lost its relationship to “the science of a statesman or legislator”, to use Smith’s expression, and came close to moral philosophy. In particular, Jevons (1871) accepted without hesitation the “utilitarian theory of morals” and the existence of a hierarchy of feelings, whose “lowest rank” where domain of the utilitarian actions explaining the exchanges in the economy. “The calculus of utility aims at supplying the ordinary wants of man at the least cost of labour” (Ibid: 32). Well, in order to calculate the amount of pleasure and pain associated to an economic exchange, Jevons distinguished between two dimensions of these magnitudes, duration and intensity, which are mutually related since “the intensity of the feeling is supposed to be gradually declining”. Given the dynamics of lower feelings, “our object will always be to maximize the resulting sum in the direction of pleasure”. In other words, coherent with the utility principle, we will pursue those exchanges that result in the greatest amount of pleasure. Furthermore, Jevons understood that some exchanges that we carry out today are related to “future feelings” of things that will not be consumed immediately and, therefore, “the intensity of the present feeling must, to use a mathematical expression, be some function of the future feeling, and it must increase as we approach the moment of realization” (Ibid: 41). But, in doing so, he was defining the future in terms of the present and assuming that we can experience future feelings when, as we know, feeling are either experienced in the present or remembered from the past. Anyway, he was right in claiming


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that many things we buy today are related to future consumption but for the wrong reasons, however. The exchange is not based on the power of imagining the possible feelings from consuming that commodity in the future. Lastly, he also thought that this idea could explain the difference between the “untutored savage” and the civilized man in as much as the former is “wholly occupied with the troubles of the moment”, whereas the latter’s “vague though powerful feeling of the future is the main incentive to industry and saving” (Ibid: 42). In other words, “the power of anticipation” is mostly developed in civilized nations and lacking in savage societies in which “the wants of a future year, or of a lifetime, are wholly unforeseen” (Ibid: 41). Again, this is the same prejudice we have discussed repeatedly which does no justice to the nature of humans systems whose constitution is always the same and, therefore, our ancestors worked as much for the future as our civilization. After having discussed Jevons theory of pleasure and pain, we can now introduce his theory of utility. What is the utility of a good? In a nutshell, “whatever can produce pleasure or prevent pain may possess utility”. In other words, “anything which an individual is found to desire and to labour for must be assumed to possess for him utility” (Ibid: 45). More importantly, since the possible satisfaction associated to a commodity is relative to our mind that experiences that feeling, “utility [is] not an intrinsic quality” of goods. To use an image, “the most wholesome and necessary kinds of food are useless unless there are hands to collect and mouth to each them” (Ibid: 52). In addition, as we saw with the relationship between intensity and duration, “utility is not proportional to commodity”. The intensity of pleasure related to additional “portions of the same commodity” gradually decreases in comparison with the former portions from which we derive more satisfaction, the so-called marginal utility. Therefore, when measuring the utility, we have to take into account both things, the quantity of the commodity and the quantity of satisfaction derived from it which, as we know, depends on the intensity and duration of the possible feeling. Again, Jevons was right about the decreasing satisfaction once the good has fulfilled sufficiently a human need though that estimation is not based on the present satisfaction but rather on past satisfaction. Cybernetically speaking, we anticipate the present satisfaction from the past, that is, from the last time the good satisfied our need which will determine our present expectation towards it from then onwards. In summary, the decreasing satisfaction we experience in relation to an increasing quantity of a good is not estimated on present satisfaction. This is Jevons’s theory of utility or value as present satisfaction underpinning his theory of exchange which is generally considered to be his main contribution to economics. Once we are able to calculate the pleasure and pain derived from a good, that is, its utility, we can also calculate the utility of that good in relation to that other goods which we could equally purchase, that is, “the ration of exchange”, because we can calculate how the present satisfaction of the last portion consumed varied with respect to that of the other. Accordingly, “value depends solely on the final degree of utility” (Ibid: 160). In claiming so, Jevons was assuming that value is a quantity determined in relation to another quantity. Likewise, the other father of the “marginalist revolution”, Walras (1874), will also consider value as “value in exchange”, the exchange of a quantity of a good for a quantity of another good.

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Similarly, utility is defined as “satisfaction of wants” in which we can distinguish between two utilities that can be measured, the extensive utility that “satisfies wants that are more or less extensive or numerous” and the intensive utility that “satisfies wants that are more or less intensive or urgent”. And by calculating these two quantities we can draw the “utility or want curves” showing the exact point in which the “exchange takes place in order to maximize satisfaction of wants”. Indeed, Jevons and Walras were arguing for the same utility theory informing their theory of exchange. Now the crucial question is: did Menger (1871), Jevons (1871) and Walras (1874) all discover the same theory of utility as Walras presumed? “Mr. Menger developed, as we did, the utility theory, in setting forth the law of the decrease wants with the quantity consumed, for the purpose of drawing the theory of exchange from it” (Ibid [2014]: 186). In my opinion, Menger’s theory of value is not the theory of utility advocated by the fathers of the so-called marginalist revolution. Ironically Stingler (1941), who wrote a history of the “distribution theories which rose out of the theory of subjective value” developed by the “revolutionaries” of the period (1870–1895), noticed this difference though only in round brackets contradicting what he has just affirmed. “All three discoverers were hedonists (although this viewpoint had relatively small incidence on Menger’s theory)” (Ibid [1949]: 2). It is assumed that the three “revolutionaries” discovered independently and around the same the marginal utility theory of value and, in terms of historical priority, Jevons had already come up with the concept of “final degree of utility” in a Notice of a General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy (1862) though, according to Schumpeter (1954), Walras was the “greatest of all economists”. His system of economic equilibrium, uniting, as it does, the quality of “revolutionary” creativeness with the quality of classic synthesis, is the only work by an economist that will stand comparison with the achievements of theoretical physics. (Ibid: 795)

Therefore, Menger holds an intermediate position between the man that discovered the marginal utility principle before him and that man that surpassed both with the general theory of economic equilibrium. At least, he is credited as the founder of the Austrian School of Economics together with two other co-founders, “Böhm-­Bawerk and Wieser, who were his intellectual equals and who completed Menger’s success” (Ibid: 811). Well, it is time to discuss whether he deserves to be ranked together with the “revolutionaries” as a co-discovered of the theory of value as utility as present satisfaction or maybe better as the founder of economics as a human science. We could start by saying that Menger wanted to provide a “scientific foundation for economic affairs”. He was aware of the state of economics in relation to the natural sciences, but he attributed this lack of progress to “the sterility of all past endeavours to find its empirical foundations” and was committed to discover the laws that explain “the phenomena of economic life”. In contrast, Jevons (1871) claimed that “Economy, if it is to be a science at all, must be a mathematical science”, “as exact as many of the purely physical sciences”, and Walras (1874) that “economic theory is a physico-­ mathematical science like mechanics or hydrodynamics”. Both thought that they


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were making economics a natural science whose cornerstone was a mathematical theory of exchange derived from a mathematical theory of utility, the so-called subjective theory of value. In the case of Menger, it was a different story since he had derived the theory of value from a general theory of economics goods without knowing that he had in fact discovered something different from the subjective theory of value. However, his insistence that “value is nothing inherent in goods and that it is not a property of goods” but something subjectively determined by economizing individuals made it appear that he had come to the same conclusion as the marginalists because he could not avoid the Subject-Object dualism. Hence value does not exist outside the consciousness of men. It is, therefore, also quite erroneous to call a good that has value to economizing individuals a “value,” or for economists to speak of “values” as of independent real things, and to objectify value in this way. (Ibid [2007]: 121)

In spite of this, the theory of economic value rather than the measure of subjective value was his greatest achievement with which he founded economics as a human science. Furthermore, that discovery would not have been possible unless he had assumed a concept of human system that did justice to the nature of “economizing individuals” which our founder did splendidly. Indeed, despite some influences of the modern world-hypothesis in his work which we will discuss later, there are neither traces of the concept of civil society assumed by Smith nor of the hedonistic action assumed by Jevons and Walras. Furthermore, unlike with his predecessors, Menger’s Principles of Economics (1871) made this field a particular province of science in its own right without being part of the broader domains of “law and government” or “ethics” because its subject matter was neither the “the production and distribution of wealth” nor the “maximization of pleasure” but that of human plenty. Accordingly, the first chapter was devoted to goods in general that fulfil human needs before distinguishing, in the second chapter, a subclass of goods, economic goods, whose contribution to our “live and well-being” depends on the “provident activity” of economizing individuals and, finally, in the third chapter, relating economic value to the importance of economic goods for our well-being. The theory of economic value only comes into play when the economizing individual faces the problem of plenty and has to makes use of his provident activity to fulfil his human needs. In other words, in a human world in which there is no shortage of goods to cover our human needs, there is no need of an economy in which goods have economic value because we do not need to determine their relative importance in relation to our well-being. But this is far from being the case in our human world given that the more knowledge we have about the things that contribute to our well-being, the more economic goods can enter the human economy. In short, Menger’s theory of value is about utilizing knowledge for human welfare rather than about maximizing pleasure. If so, the theory of economic value is actually far from being a theory subjective value. After this brief summary, we now have to examine the first three chapters of Menger’s Principles (1871) in more detail. What is a good in the first place? Basically, goods are things that are useful because we know they satisfy our needs

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and thus contribute to our well-being, but to do so, they have to be at our disposal. In so far as “we both recognize this causal connection, and have the power actually to direct the useful things to the satisfaction of our needs, we call them goods” (Ibid [2007]: 52). To distinguish goods from things that do not satisfy our needs, he talks about four “prerequisites” that have to be meet simultaneously: (1) the existence of a human need; (2) the properties of the good have to be able to come “into causal connection with the satisfaction of this need”; (3) the “human knowledge of this causal connection”; and (4) the access to or availability of the good. If we lose (3), the thing will lose its “good-character” despite still being a useful thing to fulfil our needs because we will not know that it does so. Likewise, if either (1) or (2) is absent, it will not be a useful thing that contributes to our well-being but an imaginary good which are bound to decrease with the progress in science. Indeed, all the “prerequisites” are related to human knowledge except for the last which is related the provident activity of human systems. In addition, Menger does not want to provide a restrictive concept of good because, unlike the material goods that come from nature, not all goods are tangible objects, there are also useful human actions “the most important of which are labour services” and there are also higher order goods that do not satisfy our needs directly but through their transformation into lower order goods. This last classification does not contradict the concept of good given that the second prerequisite does not exclude the use of an industrial process so that the properties of the good can reach the satisfaction of our need. Of course, “the goods-character of goods of higher order is dependent on the command of the corresponding complementary goods” (Ibid: 59). This means that higher-order goods lose their condition as goods unless we have the capacity to utilize the other intermediate goods required to transform them into lower order goods. In other words, though Menger talks about the “mutual interdependence of goods”, we could understand this better by saying that production of lower-order goods depends on the working together of different producing activities at different levels of organization. By broadening the concept of good, he was also expanding the temporality of the provident activity of entangled human systems working together to produce goods to satisfy future needs. Good of higher order acquire and maintain their goods-character […] not with respect to needs of the immediate present, but as a result of human foresight, only with respect to needs that will be experienced when the process of production has been completed. (Ibid: 68)

Indeed, our new concept of human system is showing up in its temporal character adding the present-future temporality missing in the cybernetic systems which satisfies its present needs based on a recurring world. Furthermore, according to Menger, what explains the progress in human welfare is not the division of labour, as Smith thought, but the increasing transformation of higher-order goods into lower-order goods made possible by the utilization of human knowledge. The quantity of consumption goods at human disposal are limited only by the extent of human knowledge of the causal connection between things, and the by the extent of human control over these things […] Nothing is more certain than that the degree of economic


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progress of mankind will still, in future epochs, be commensurate with the degree of progress of human knowledge. (Ibid: 74)

Entangled knowledge workers are not working alone separate from economic activities because their scientific discoveries are used to produce higher-order goods that will be transformed into lower-order goods improving our well-being. The whole economy is an entangled human system in which nobody works alone doing because everyone shares a level of organization working together doing different things that contribute to human welfare. But the “mutual interdependence of goods” also happens among the first order goods on which our well-being depends directly. Indeed, all the goods an economizing individual has at his command are mutually interdependent with respect to their good-character, since each particular good can achieve the end they all serve, the preservation of life and well-being, not by itself, but only in combination with the other goods. (Ibid: 75)

Although interdependent first-order goods contribute directly to our well-being, it does not mean that we have direct access to them as in an “isolated household economy” that produces everything it needs to survive. In the modern economy, we normally have an indirect access to them through “our developed exchange economy”. And this is already anticipating the second chapter on the “economy and economic goods” because the “quantity of consumption goods a person must have to satisfy his needs” are his requirements which do not coincide with the goods at his disposal. When this is the case, those good that we require become the economic goods pursued by economizing individuals who are concerned with present and future needs. Indeed, their well-being will be inadequately assured if they wait to meet their requirements until “they experience an immediate need” without “arranging in advance for the satisfaction of their needs”. Of course, this contradicts the idea that individuals are only interested in the satisfaction of immediate needs. On the contrary, the provident activity of economizing individuals does justice to the present-future temporality of human systems intrinsic to every age and part of the human world. “Even an Australian savage does not postpone hunting until he actually experiences hunger” (Ibid: 78). Therefore, we should define a “person’s requirements [as] those quantities of goods that are necessary to satisfy his needs within the time period covered by his plans” (Ibid: 79). In fact, all provident activity is dependent on knowing whether the disposal of goods in the future will be sufficient for meet our requirements. However, in estimating the quantity of goods that will be required in that period economizing individuals also have to take “into consideration […] the capacity of human needs to grow in the future” (Ibid: 82). In addition, given that the subject matter of economics is human plenty, this also applies that “municipalities” and “national governments” because they also have to plan in advance how their investments in future goods are going to meet the growing needs of their population. Indeed, economic goods are those goods that we do not have enough of but are necessary for present and future human welfare. And to compensate for this lack of goods contributing to our well-being, Menger suggests four types of economizing activities as follows: (1) ensure the access to

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“every unit of a good” we are lacking; (2) “conserve its useful properties”; (3) chose from our less important needs which are going to be left unsatisfied; and (4) “obtain the greatest possible result with a given quantity of the good”. This does not mean that all this economizing activities are necessarily carried out in a market economy because “economic goods also exist for an isolated individual”, according to Menger. “The cause of the economic character of a good cannot therefore be the fact that it is either an ‘object of exchange’ or an ‘object of property’” (Ibid: 101). Furthermore, even if an economizing individual manages to increase the goods at his disposal to meet his requirements by increasing his wealth, “the quantities of which are smaller than the requirements for them” (Ibid: 109). Interestingly, this definition of wealth as “the entire sum of economic goods at an economizing individual’s command” refers to the economy as a whole because “if there were a society where all goods were accumulated in amounts exceeding the requirements for them, there would be no economic goods nor any ‘wealth’” (Ibid: 109–110). However, though Menger’s thinking imagination does not go that far, this concept of wealth is applicable to an isolated household economy in which its humans systems work together doing different things resulting in a sum of economic goods at their disposal to fulfil their present and future needs. Why do I say that his thinking imagination did not go that far? Well, because it was difficult for him to imagine “trust funds” as economic goods belonging to an entangled human system because these are “quantities of economic goods devoted to specific purposes, but they are not wealth in the economic sense” (Ibid: 112). Apparently, wealth is only applied to economizing individuals but he accepts public wealth, nevertheless, because “no one will hesitate to admit the existence of governmental, provincial, municipal and corporate wealth” (Ibid.). And yet, he does not accept calling wealth to national wealth because it includes “the totality of goods at the disposal of the separate economizing individuals and associations of a society” (Ibid.). This is an example of how the modern world-hypothesis was shaping his thinking imagination preventing him from deriving the implications of his own concept of wealth. Indeed, it is only valid “if we employ the fiction of conceiving of the totality of economizing persons in a society […] as one great economizing unit” (Ibid.). But his is logically impossible according to the modern “cosmology”, so “national wealth must be regarded rather as a complex composite of the wealth of the members of society” (Ibid: 113). This is the concept of extended body divisible into smaller bodies. The influence of that world-hypothesis will not stop there. National wealth also implies that the quantities at the disposal of a nation are always smaller than its requirement so some “persons will therefore have interests opposed to those of the present possessors with respect to each portion of the available quantity of goods” (Ibid: 97). And this economic problem would lead to a legal solution, the protection of ownership: “human economy and property have a joint economic origin”. Of course, this contradicts the idea of an isolated household being an economy in which the sum of economic goods at their disposal resulting from working together is shared. It seems that Menger could only imagine an individual or a political body as possessing wealth since “the fiction of a legal person is not necessary for the political economist”.


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After clarifying the nature of economic goods, Menger is ready to introduce the theory of economic value in the third chapter. “The value of goods, accordingly, is a phenomenon that springs from the same source as the economic character of goods – that is, from the relationship between requirements for and available quantities of goods” (Ibid: 115). Indeed, we only value, economically speaking, those goods which are part of our requirements but not part of our wealth because the quantity of goods at our disposal is lower than the quantity of goods we need to satisfy our human needs. And this is when we start thinking about the relative importance of economic goods “for our lives and well-being” in terms of economic value. However, economic value is not something subjective because it is based on the objective relationship between an economic good and a human need. Of course, there can be a subjective value based on an imaginary good whose consumption does not contribute to our well-being at all. But how do we determine that objective relationship we call economic value? “The value goods have for us […] is the necessary consequence of our knowledge of their importance for our lives and well-­being” (Ibid: 119). Indeed, human knowledge is again the key to determine the objective contribution of each quantity of economic goods to for our well-being. And the implication is clear, “it would be impossible for us to attribute value to goods when we know that we are not dependent upon them for the satisfaction of our needs” (Ibid: 120). This could only happen if we mistakenly assumed an objective relationship between a something that appears to us as an economic good and our well-being when the relationship does not exist in which case it would be an imaginary value of a pseudo-economic good. In addition, that objective relationship could disappear if the amount of goods at our disposal is higher than our requirements for them but only for some of them because we would always be short of others. Finally, how did Menger explain “the difference we observe in the magnitude of value of different goods in actual life”? Again, it is related to the “human knowledge of the different degrees of importance of satisfaction of different needs” (Ibid: 128). This does not mean that our knowledge of the objective contribution of different goods to our well-being is perfect, “error is inseparable from all human knowledge”. In fact, in most cases, the mistakes of human systems come from overestimating “the importance of satisfactions that give intense momentary pleasure but contribute only fleetingly to their well-being” (Ibid: 148). If so, present satisfaction does not explain how we determine the difference in value between different economic goods. Instead, from Menger’s premises, we can conclude that their difference in value comes from weighing their objective contribution to our well-being according to our available knowledge. At last, this is the theory of value as utilization of knowledge founding economics as a human science. Furthermore, Menger also discovered the “fluctuations in the values of goods” were due not only to changes in the economic goods or in human needs but also to “changes in the knowledge men have of the importance of goods for their lives and welfare” (Ibid: 148). So the value of economic goods changes with the changes in our available knowledge of their respective contribution to our well-being. In order words, the knowledge we use to determine the value of goods is neither infallible nor immutable.

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By definition, having better knowledge of the objective contribution of different economic goods to our well-being improves how we value them economically. Menger theory of value does justice to the nature of human systems not by incorporating the present-future temporality but by assuming the actuality-possibility duality entirely. This becomes manifest once we realize that the use of human knowledge assumes the simultaneity of actuality-possibility because that is when possible ideas and actual facts coincide. In other words, the theory of economic value assumes the both the temporal (present-future) and the spatial (inner-outer) dualities of utopic systems. Indeed, Menger’s economizing individuals are our entangled human systems working together doing different things at different levels of organization resulting in different economic goods whose objective contribution to our well-being has economic value for the human world. This also means that the status of economic goods is not relative to an individual for which the goods have economic value but to the human world. If so, “value arises and disappears” not in relation to an economizing individual which has at his disposal more quantities of goods that he requires to satisfy his needs, but in relation to an entangled human system. Accordingly, the sum of economic goods at its disposal constitutes human wealth. And the value of human wealth is determined by its objective contribution to human plenty. However, human plenty is always a fundamental issue for the human world given that our requirements for economic goods will always be higher than the available quantities at our disposal. The way that utopic systems have handled the problem of human plenty is by realizing possible ideas that could contribute to our well-being by fulfilling our needs. Exactly, those possible ideas are, in fact, the economic goods that Menger so brilliantly defined. We can imagine our ancestors working together to produce higher-order goods such as tools that could be transformed into first order goods such as food, shelter and clothing. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that the first tool-makers were utopic systems imagining ways to better satisfy those basic needs indirectly by means of the production of higher-order goods. And it is likely that those archaeological findings are the best evidence of an economy among hunting and gathering entangled human systems. At that time, they would utilize their expanding knowledge of nature to improve the quality and quantity of the economic goods with better materials and better skills, in addition to finding ways to make a better use of natural goods through preserving or learning more about their properties. We already know what came later, the utilization of fire in order to extract the heat from dry wood and the discovery of agriculture to grow foods to ensure the nourishment of increasing entangled human systems. Every progress in human welfare resulted from the progress in the utilization of knowledge to address the problem of plenty. This has continued to our present era in which we have expanded our knowledge of nature with new scientific discoveries, but now we are starting to realize, as a civilization, the negative impact of human action on planet Earth and our life and well-being. Ironically, what was a quest to improve human welfare is now turning against the human world. So now the human economy has to rethink itself and utilize the knowledge of our impact on physical, biological and cybernetic systems to restore their condition, because, as we know, the separation of


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“anthropology” from “cosmology” is impossible and thus what goes against the rest of the universe goes against our human civilization. Fortunately, utopic systems are already using their thinking imagination grounded on the available human knowledge to work out solutions to the problem of plenty by means of realizing economic goods that will change the ways in which we satisfy our needs in the present. Unlike the past, the realization of possible ideas to solve this fundamental problem will depend increasingly on economic solutions with a broader impact because our current civilization is now one single entangled human system. However, that impact will not come so much from scaling up pilot projects but more from rotting down economic ideas that might then contribute to the well-being of other entangled human systems. That is, the solution to the problem of human plenty depends more on stimulating the thinking imagination of other utopic systems working together to come up with their own possible solutions than on replicating the same solution everywhere.

6.3  The Foundation of Ethics The foundation of economics in 1871 marks the first great milestone in the history of utopics despite that Menger’s genuine theory of economic value has been generally overlooked and assimilated to the so-called theory of subjective value as part of the “marginalist revolution”. Furthermore, given the shaping of the thinking imagination by symbolism, it is not surprising that this foundational contribution was further overshadowed by economic analysis or mathematical models which made Jevons and Walras stand out as the fathers of exact economics. Well, something similar happened with the historian of ethics who missed completely the breakthrough of our next founding fathers due to the contemporary focus on symbolic discourse. In fact, the fundamental contributions of Scheler (1913/1916) and Hartmann (1926) are either treated as anecdotic episodes or mostly forgotten in contemporary histories. An outstanding example is MacIntyre’s still prevalent A Short History of Ethics (1966) which does not even mention them. Given the contemporary bias, we have to look at previous histories to get an idea of the prehistory of ethical science. Maybe the most accomplished at the time was Sidgwick’s Outlines of the History of Ethics (1886) though its last chapter deals only with “modern, chiefly English, ethics” where “German ethics” is only referred to in as much as it has influenced “English ethics”. This underemphasis is not very helpful given that Scheler’s Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values (1913/1916) was actually a reaction to Kant’s ethics (1788). By and large, the periodization of the history of ethics has paralleled that of the history of philosophy in being divided into ancient ethics, medieval ethics and modern ethics. And, according to the analytical tradition, there is also said to be a contemporary ethics that has gone through three stages (Warnock 1968): intuitionism represented Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903), emotivism by Stevenson’s Ethics and Language (1944) and prescriptivism by Hare’s Language of Morals (1952). To

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which we could maybe add a fourth school, descriptivism, represented by Warnock’s The Object of Morality (1971). What the last period has in common is the attempt to analyse moral language as if the subject matter of ethics was “the understanding and elucidation of ‘moral concepts’, or of ‘the concepts of morality’” (Ibid: 1). In contrast, I argue that the domain of human science is that of realized ideas and ethics, in particular, is concerned with moral values and its subject matter is the fundamental problem of human goodness rather than moral discourse. Leaving aside contemporary ethics, if we had to characterize somehow the prehistory of ethics, perhaps we could say that it started being blended with justice, then with theology, and finally, in the modern period, firth with “passions” and later with law. Except for the last period, we have already had the chance to see some representative examples of the former periods in the prehistory of human science. In the case of Greek ethics, Plato’s Republic (c. 367 BC [1971]) treated goodness and justice as mutually implied in the ideal city-state which lived according to justice when every class did what was according to their nature and followed their corresponding virtue. For the rulers it was prudence, courage for the warriors and temperance for every citizen. As regards medieval ethics, in Augustine’s City of God (426 AD [1913]) all goodness came from God and evil from the bad use of our free will which lead the first couple to the commit the original sin and to His punishment by making man “the slave of appetite” with the fall from paradise, but His goodness can still compensate our suffering in this life with eternal peace. And, regarding the modern period, we should mention Hume (1739) who considered that passions “arise immediately from good or evil, from pain or pleasure” as the forerunner of utilitarism but also Kant (1785) who questioned hedonism by arguing that worth can only come from a will following the moral law dictated by reason even if that imperative goes against our “satisfactions” or “happiness”. Moreover, “utility or fruitfulness can neither add to nor subtract anything from this worth” (Ibid [2002]: 10). Good actions are only such in relation to a good will, “as a self-legislating” will that gives itself its “own universal legislation”. This brief characterization of the prehistory of ethics does not intend to underestimate all the work of Western philosophy arguing that it did not touch the domain of moral values since there are a few exceptions: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (340  BC [1910]), Epicurus’s (c. 300  BC [2014]) Principal Doctrines and The Vatican Sayings and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886). As regards to the question of how far has Western world-hypothesis determined the history of ethical thought, the focus on moral discourse in contemporary ethics shows evidence of the presence of the concept of symbolical animal and that of rational nature is also found in both utilitarianism and Kant’s ethics. In the case of the medieval period, God’s goodness informs His creation which is a hierarchy of creatures in which humans, despite being corrupted nature after the original sin, are endowed with a higher degree of goodness than the rest of the visible universe because they have been created with a soul in the image of God. And, in the antique period, good is referred to someone that has educated his natural character by following virtue and justice is one of them. However, as we saw in Augustine, justice does not fit well with goodness because someone who is good does not punish unless we have


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committed a crime according to the law. In other words, the behaviour of a judging and a loving God seems to be informed by different kinds of “laws”. This ambivalence will only be clarified when we demarcate ethics from jurisprudence. What is clear is that the conflation of these two spheres of knowledge was shaped by Western world-hypothesis. Furthermore, unlike economics, ethics is still seen as a branch of philosophy which was also assumed by our founders who thought that they were grounding it philosophically. For Scheler (1913/1916), for instance, his “non-formal ethics” provided a “philosophical theory of values (be it in ethics, aesthetics, etc.)”. In fact, may be imbued with the spirit of Husserl’s (1900) “science of sciences”, he states in the preface that “the main objective of these investigations is to establish a strictly scientific and positive foundation for philosophical ethics”. In the case of Hartmann (1926), though his reference to “ethics as science” appears in the introduction, later in the Problem of the Spiritual Being (1933), it is distinguished from science as a completely different sphere of the objective spirit. What is most interesting about our founders is that they had that double condition of being philosophers and scientists without even knowing it. Ironically, though they came close in relation to ethical science as they both inquired into the realm of moral values, they thought in terms of different “cosmologies” when it came to philosophy. Indeed, Scheler and Hartmann were the last philosophers of different ages despite the short difference in age between them, only 8 years. However, the new world-hypothesis that culminated with Hartmann (1940) did not influence his Ethics (1926) since it was published a year before its birth with Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927). Having said this, both philosophers shared the same assumption with regard to the being of values, namely, that values have an ontological existence, though they disagreed on how that aspect should be understood. In terms of science, this view would be equivalent to saying that scientific ideas exist beyond the scientific laws we observe in the real world as if we could separate possible ideas from actual facts. Their positions only differed according to the emphasis they gave to the relativity of values to the person experiencing them. Whereas for Scheler values were given in a priori experience and were objective, that is, “independent of human organization”, because we could all experience the same values, for Hartmann they existed beyond the real world in the sphere of the ideal being. Scheler could not disagree more, “I reject […] a heavenly realm of ideas and values that is ‘independent’ of the essence and execution of living spiritual acts” as he wrote in the preface to the third edition in 1926, the year that Hartmann published his Ethics. On the other hand, Scheler (1913/1916) also believed in the “ultimate independence of the being of values with regards to things” despite arguing that values always have bearers in which they become “objective and real at the same time”. In fact, he distinguished between two essential bearers of values, the goods in which we feel values and experience “feeling-states of pleasure and displeasure” and the person who “bears the non-formal values of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ prior to and independent of all individual acts” (Ibid [1973]: 28). Yet, it is here, in relation to the concept of the person that we find the key difference between the two founders to such an extent that we can argue that whereas

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Scheler discovered the “pioneering insight […] showing us the gates to the kingdom of values”, as Hartmann credits him, it is only to the latter that we owe the theory of moral value because it depended on assuming a concept of human system that did justice to the nature of utopic systems. We already had the chance to meet Scheler’s person as a spiritual act-centre executing different types of act such as thinking and feeling which, of course, points to the modern concept of the subject that experiences outer objects. Well, Scheler (1913/1916) will argue that “as a concrete unity of all possible acts, the person is outside the entire sphere of all possible ‘objects’” (Ibid [1973]: 29). Indeed, “the person exists solely in the pursuance of his acts” which means that it is not an object among others in the material world. In contrast, for Hartmann (1933), the moral person belongs to the real world because as “spiritual-­corporal entity [it] is totally located spatio-temporally”. However, this does not mean that the person is totally reduced to the real world because “the spirit also has the power to live in a different world from that one in which he is really inserted and in which he really has to remain” (Ibid [2007]: 215, my emphasis). This other world may be of the past and of the future, a world of idea, of value, of the beautiful, of the eternal, a world of utopia, even of fantasy, where nothing prevents him from staying in it, become familiar with it until he even forgets and loses the real world. (Ibid., my emphasis)

In particular, as regards the moral person, the “kingdom of values” is not detached from “human purpose”: “¿What can a man put himself as an end […]? Obviously […] only what he perceives as valuable” (Ibid: 224). Furthermore, Hartmann claims that the “kingdom of spirit”, the human world, is the “kingdom of conflict” between real being, what is, and ideal being, what should be. The moral person faces this “moral conflict” because he is placed in a real world subjected to real determinations, but at the same time he perceives values, ideal determinations, which he can realize in the human world through his “teleological activity”, that is, “activity for a purpose”. In the case of Scheler, he included “acts of realizing” within the “acts of willing” of the person and what is good is related to the “value intended in the realization”. In other words, his ethics reduced the activity of the person to the acts of consciousness, the willing subject. There is also a difference related to how our founders understood their contributions to ethics. Hartmann (1926) credits Scheler for having made a synthesis between two mutually opposing ideas, Kant’s universal apriorism and Nietzsche’s pluralism of values. By doing that, “the way is shown” but “neither Scheler nor anyone else has taken this course”. What was missing after this “pioneering insight” was a broader historical synthesis between the antique and modern ethics given that “the material ethics of values is the historical reunion of factors which have really been intimately connected from the beginning” (Foreword). In particular, “Scheler’s thoughts cast new light on Aristotle, although he did not at all intend to do so”. Again, Scheler did not accept how Hartmann’s understood his place in the history of ethics because in the preface of 1916, he had already claimed that his “non-­formal ethics” had gone “beyond Kant” whose ethics “represented the most perfect we have in the area of philosophical ethics […] in the form of strict scientific insight”. And


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thus, also beyond Aristotle’s ethics as “it presupposes Kant’s destruction of these forms of ethics”. It seems that Scheler could not accept that, after all, his discovery of the objective order of values was incomplete without the contributions of antique and medieval ethics. But Hartmann (1926) could not deny the scientific challenge that lay ahead after Scheler had paved the way, “with the new evidence, which at first comes to us as a final solution, we stand again at the very beginning of a work whose magnitude is difficult to measure” (Foreword). However, in Scheler’s (2008) defence, we have to say that, unlike Hartmann, he seems to have given up the ontological existence of values at the end of his life by reversing the priority between ethics and cosmology. “Axiology must not only be independently grounded from metaphysics itself […] but the situation is rather that the prevailing value system determines the structure of a metaphysical system” (Ibid: 67). Of course, this is logically impossible because our scientific discoveries in ethics, like in any other domain of knowledge, are made possible by the working together of our human “anatomy” with the “anatomy” of the rest of the world and, therefore, ethics is not independent from the heterogeneous structure of the universe. Anyway, Scheler could not accept Hartmann’s “ideal being” hosting the realm of values, “I deny in particular that there is an ideal being in the form of an independent region of being” (Ibid: 389). After this general introduction to our founders, let us now discuss their particular contributions to ethics as a human science. If Scheler did not discover a theory of moral value, what did he do to found moral science? Well, he illuminated moral facts by arguing that they were neither facts given to our senses nor facts given to our consciousness, that is, neither “facts of pure reason” such as Kant’s moral law nor “facts of observation and induction”. Instead, modifying Husserl’s “phenomenological experience”, he described the experience of values as a “non-symbolic” or “immanent experience”. “For only what is intuitively in an act of experiencing […] – never anything that is meant as a content outside of, or separated from, such an act  – can belong to it” (Ibid: 51). Scheler was trying to argue that moral facts correspond neither to external (physical) nor to internal (psychical) perceptions but even less to Husserl’s pure experiences. If was not easy to argue his case especially after relating his thought to phenomenological movement, so he devoted the first part of the second chapter to clarify what he meant by this type of experience. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Scheler (1913/1916) was trying to say that values are possible ideas given in actual facts though it was impossible to put it this way at the time so he had to make use of the available philosophical terminology. In the first chapter, for instance, he tells us that “values are clearly feelable phenomena” since we could feel values in the goods we experience with our senses though they were “independent of their bearer”. “In a good, however, a value is objective (whatever the value may be) and real at the same time” (Ibid [1973]: 21). Given that the feeling of values was neither reducible to sensuous perception nor independent from experience, the only way forward was to argue for a different type of acts of consciousness though which we have an immediate access to values, the acts of feeling, loving and hating. This ethical sphere was the “emotional life” of the person which was neither reducible to the sensible nor to our rational nature. “Hence, contrary to Kant, we

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recognize an emotive apriorism as a definite necessity, and we demand a new division of the false unity of apriorism and rationalism that hitherto has existed” (Ibid: 65). For him it was legitimate to talk of “value-cognition or value-intuition that comes to the fore in feeling, basically in love and hate, as well as the “moral cognition” of the interconnections of values, i.e., their “being-higher” and “being-lower” (Ibid: 68). The latter being possible thanks to an additional type of act of consciousness, the act of preferring, by which we discover the hierarchy of values. Indeed, the cognition of a priori values and of their value-rank is “different from all perception and thinking”. Scheler was so sure of this genuine experience of values that he would even claim that “the philosophy which has phenomenology as its foundation is “empiricism” in that sense”. Of course, it was difficult to make that assertion when Kant’s “apriorism” had actually been defined in opposition to empiricism. But still, he would insist that there was a “non-logical a priori side” which included “the emotive elements of spirit, such as feeling, preferring, loving, hating, and willing” as well as the corresponding values experienced and intended by those acts of consciousness. These were the bare-bones of his “non-formal a priori ethics” which he worked out in the main part of the second chapter. We cannot consider his ethical system as a scientific contribution to human science, but it is worth summarizing the thoughts that made possible Hartmann’s thinking together and highlighting other “pioneering insights” for ethics as a human science. First, he realized that “all values […] fall into two groups: positive and negative” (Ibid: 81). In other words, “the value ‘good’ is the value that is attached to the act which realizes a positive value, as opposed to a negative value” (Ibid: 26). We will have time to see the particular opposites defining each “value-modality” when we introduce his “order of ranks” between higher and lower values. Next, he also realized that “ethical values” are related to persons rather than to things though he also claimed that some “moral values” are also related to “living beings”. However, both of these insights depended on assuming a value rank in relation to which a lower positive value related to a corporal thing was morally inferior to a higher positive value related to a living being. Well, we should start by saying that Scheler’s ethics distinguished between values and bearers of values, that is, between positive-negative value-modalities and whereon we experience them, either in inanimate goods or in animated beings. In arguing for different bearers of values, he could ground a hierarchy of values. Inanimate things could host the lower values related to “all ethics of goods and purposes” that Kant had excluded from moral philosophy, namely, “values of agreeable and useful”, and “living things” added a higher value rank, namely, “values of noble and vulgar” arguing that “they represent an irreducible type of categorical unity”. In terms of beings, ethics presumably starts with animals given that there are “no morally good or evil things and events” and moral values are related to “the lived body” endowed with sense organs which is the bearer of higher values. However, strictly speaking, Scheler could deny that animals are moral creatures because they only experience pleasure-pain but cannot execute acts of feeling or acts of willing which belong to the person exclusively. In fact, to be a moral being you have to be able to distinguish between a higher and lower value which depends


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on the act of preferring which is also absent in animals. And it is thanks to this “special act of value-cognition” that we have access to the “widening of the value-range” otherwise our act of feeling would be blind to “the order of value ranks”. Indeed, “the height of a value is given ‘in’ preferring”. However, Scheler will have to justify somehow his hierarchy of values by providing some criteria to distinguish between higher and lower levels. For starters, they can be ranked in terms of endurability since lowest values are the “most transient” compared to the highest values, the “eternal ones”. Of course, this is not enough given that we do not know to which eternal values he is referring to. Maybe the divisibility criterion will aid us here. Well, “values are ‘higher’ the less they are divisible” by which he meant that some values are more unified than others if we compare, for instance, a material good that we have to separate in different parts so that many people can satisfy their need to a work of culture or “the value of the holy”, “the most indivisible value”. We are now getting nearer to the nature of the value hierarchy. Indeed, there seems to be a relationship in which lower values are founded on higher values, the next criterion. Scheler gives some examples such as “the value of what is “useful” is “founded” in the value of what is ‘agreeable’” but “the value of the agreeable […] is subordinated to the value of healthy life” (Ibid: 94-95). Likewise, the values of the noble and vulgar are “founded” in “spiritual values”, and “all possible values are ‘founded’ in the value of an infinitely personified spirit”. But there are still two other criteria, the degree of contentment we experience from them and their “relationship to absolute values”. After having discovered the “a priori essential interconnections” between values, Scheler is now ready to introduce his hierarchy. The lowest level of values, of course, is the “value-modality” of the agreeable-disagreable related “to beings endowed with sensibility in general” and capable of “sensible feeling”. Higher up in the value rank comes the “noble-vulgar” value-modality which is related to “vital feeling” and “they cannot be ‘reduced’ to the values of the agreeable and useful”. Reaching higher into the human being, we find the spiritual values which can be classified into the following: beautiful-ugly, right-wrong and the “pure cognition of truth”. Of course, these are not related to goods but to persons; however, the works of culture whereon we experience those values do “belong to the value-sphere of goods”. Finally, on the top of the value ranking we have the highest level of values: the holy-unholy and the “value of the person”. And “this order of value-ranks is valid for the goods of correlative values”. That is, material goods that provide pleasure are lower than vital goods that provide well-being and the cultural goods providing intellectual fulfilment are the most valuable we can experience. We can finish by noticing another great insight related to “right-wrong” within spiritual values suggesting the sphere of justice or the “order of right”, as he put it. Well, despite placing justice in the realm of values, Scheler argued that “values are never based on the necessity of the ought! Thus, only what is good can become ‘duty’: or it is because it is good […] that is necessarily ‘ought’ to be” (Ibid: 75). Indeed, in trying to derive the sphere of ought from the sphere of ethics, he was in fact distinguishing between two different spheres of knowledge that Kant had conflated together in his ethics of duty. After all, Scheler’s thinking together with that

6.3 The Foundation of Ethics


philosopher had also been productive for the demarcation of those two human sciences within the domain of utopics. But most fundamental for the demarcation of ethics was, without doubt, his understanding that “value-comprehension” is related to love-hate which is different from the feeling of cybernetics systems and exclusive to human systems. In his own words, “loving and hating constitute the highest level of our intentional emotive life” (Ibid: 260). “Love and hate are acts in which the value-realm accessible to the feeling of a being […] is either extended or narrowed” (Ibid: 261). In my opinion, this was Scheler’s the greatest insight as it discovered the essence of ethics. In addition, he also deserves credit for having revealed the moral value of solidarity. Paradoxically, it was not included in the “non-formal value-ethics” and its discussion only appeared 3 years later in the context of his “theory of essential forms of human groups” published in the second part of Formalism in Ethics (1913/1916). The “principle of solidarity” is introduced to question “the exclusive self-responsibility” of individuals in “society” and is defined “in terms of self-­ responsibility as well as corresponsability” in the “collective person”. Now that we have a new world-hypothesis, we could state it by combining our terms together in the following way: In a solidary entangled system, every human system, independently of its rank or position in the organizational structure, is “responsible for itself” and “for all other individual persons ‘in’ the collective person”.

Unlike the “order of ranks among values”, there is no hierarchical order among persons. “From an ethical point of view there is for us no relation of subordination between the individual person and the collective person” (Ibid: 525). Of course, the realization of the moral value of solidarity within a real collective person did not fit well with what was understood as civil society, an artificial body reducible to self-­ interested individuals fending for themselves. As a consequence, the idea of the existence of a “collective personality” was much criticized at the time, especially by our next founder who only attributed a true personality to the individual person with consciousness and rejected “a consciousness of a higher order”. We have to remember that Scheler had claimed that the collective person “does possess a ‘consciousness-of’ that is different and independent from the ‘consciousness-­of’ of the individual person” (Ibid: 523). The consciousness of the collective person assumed the Subject-Object dualism at a higher level of organization in which the higher order consciousness is independent from the lower order consciousness of the individual members, something logically impossible according to the modern world-hypothesis. The conscious subject, by definition, was endowed with a body which coexisted next to other individual mind-bodies constituting an artificial body in their reciprocal interaction but never a collective mind above the individual minds. If so, how could the experience of the individual minds coincide with that collective mind if the former were necessarily independent from the latter? So the collective mind had to be denied because it contradicted the modern world-­ hypothesis but also every other social unit made of mutually interacting parts working together for an unconscious purpose. Indeed, there was no room for a concept of


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human system that contradicted the nature of artificial bodies, a sum of individual mind-bodies working alone and coexisting together in reciprocal interaction. Ironically, this was the same concept of civil society that Scheler had accepted by including it within this own typology of social systems as one of the “essential forms of human togetherness”. And in Exemplars of Persons and Leaders (1914), he even suggested a “pure type of person” that corresponded to the value the “useful” in society, “the leading mind of civilization”: “the leaders of progress of technical civilization (such as researchers, technicians, leaders in the economy)”. In turning to Hartmann, we can have to notice that his ethics was influenced by his cosmology given that in spiritual being we find an overlapping of two “ways of being”, real being and ideal being, which is incomplete. Unlike the real world, in which necessity and possibility coincide, those “modalities of being” are separated in the human world, what is necessarily the case and what could possibly be. So ethics is conceived as the domain of the incomplete reality because the ideal values that consciousness discovers as things that “ought to be” are not necessarily realized by the moral person in the real world. As we said earlier, this creates a moral conflict within the spiritual being who cannot accept the real world as it is because it does not coincide with ideal being. That lack of correspondence between this two “ways of being” in the human world seems to suggest to Hartmann the first fundamental problem of ethics: “What ought we to do?”. But at the same time, “what ought to be” depends on “what is valuable in itself” since we do not know what we ought to do until we know previously the answer to the second question: What is valuable in life and in the world in general?. The first question suggests that ethics is about doing the right thing and the second about knowing “what is good and evil”. Fortunately, it is this second question and not Kant’s duty that informs his inquiry into the domain of ethics. However, like Scheler’s ethics, he assumes that there is an a priori realm of values hierarchically structured. And what Hartmann aims to discover is whether we can truly speak of a “system of values”, that is, a “systematic unity” among the plurality of values whose investigation, as the main focus of the book, is undertaken in the second volume. According to him, Nietzsche was the first to discover the existence of a diversity of values but, unfortunately, was led, mistakenly, to the relativism of value with his “doctrine of the transmutation of values”. In contrast, the realm of values is not at all invented by humans because there are authentic values that can be discovered. In fact, humanity had already had access to them so what ethical philosophy has to do is to analyse was has already been experienced in history by “each community, age, people”. But what history shows is not that values change, given that they are “supratemporal” and “suprahistorical” in essence, but that the changes in our conscious of values changes what is valuable in life in relation to the new group of values that has been discovered. The downside of this process of accessing new values, however, is the value narrowness that comes from contemplating some genuine values at the expense of overshadowing others. This explanation is not very convincing in terms of why those genuine values have transcended the ideal sphere to enter the real world given that a change of ethos, as Hartmann calls the morality of a community, does not come from contemplating a new section within the systems of ideal values but from realizing them in

6.3 The Foundation of Ethics


the human world. Interestingly, in order to explain how this happens, he gave a different explanation in the introducing to his Ethics (1926) which he presumably wrote after finishing the book. Indeed, he uses the image of the mythical Demiurge, the artisan of universe we find in Plato’s Timaeus (360 BC). Using this analogy, the Demiurge’s crafting of the universe according to the realm of immutable Ideas as models for his creation, Hartmann (1926) sees the spiritual being as a co-creator of the world perfecting an incomplete reality by means of realizing his ethos. The ethos of man includes both the chaotic and the demiurgic. In the former lies his possibilities, but also his dangers; in the latter he finds his vocation. To fulfil it is to be human. (Ibid [1932], Vol. I: 31)

Thus, the spiritual being not only contemplates what is possible but also makes it reality with his teleological activity in human world. In fact, I wonder how Hartmann did not realize that the contemplation of possibilities is a looking into the future as something possible and still non-actual rather than a looking into a timeless realm of values. Indeed, he seems to argue something like this but separates the possible from the actual. “The reason why it is preoccupied with the future and always directs his gaze upon the remote and the unactualized and it sees even the present under the guise of futurity, is because it is itself supra-temporal” (Ibid: 32). Anyway, he was right in believing that the subject matter of ethics is human goodness and that the human world is constituted by realized moral values even though they do not have an ontological existence in the “ideal ethical sphere” as he believed. Yet, he will devote four chapters to argue for the “essence of ethical values” to convince us that “the self-existence of values subsists independently of their own actualization” (Ibid: 233). And it is in this context in which we find his great insights which can be turned into a theory of moral value even though it might have gone unnoticed to Hartmann judging from the main focus of this investigation, namely, discovery the “supra-­ temporal” realm of values. In fact, those same insights are still present just before he undertakes his philosophical oeuvre published in the second-half of the 1930s after which, as the treatment of ethics in his Introduction to Philosophy (1949) testifies, the theory is forgotten. In particular, the places where we can find his contribution to moral science are Chapters 14 and 15 in the first volume of Ethics (1926) and Chapter 14 of The Problem of the Spiritual Being (1933) devoted to “the person as a moral being”. This does not mean that his investigation into the domain of moral values, that is, his “table of values”, is fruitless. On the contrary, like Scheler in the case of solidarity, Hartmann also discovered two moral values that deserve to be praised and will be discussed later, namely, the love for the nearest and the love for the remote, whose treatment can be found in Chapter 55 in the second volume. After discussing Scheler’s ethics and accepting his emotional apriorism, our scientist wants to establish a clear demarcation of moral values from non-moral values. Previously Scheler had distinguished between two bearers of values, goods and persons corresponding to “corporeal things” and “living beings”, respectively, which suggested a distinction between “thing-values” and moral values. This provided a place to host the moral values of “noble” and “vulgar” relative to “living


6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

beings” which, of course, depended on a being for which the value of life was higher than that of “the agreeable”, the person. In other words, the act of feeling was informed by the act of preferring which cannot be found in animals and, hence, only the person was a moral being as such. Indeed, that value-modality related to “vital feelings” and “well-being” was a unity not reducible to the “agreeable-disagreable” related to “sensible feelings” and the consecutive value of “the useful”. The value of life was considered to be the basic moral value which was founded on the higher ethical values related to the acts of the person. So the realm of moral values started with well-being. This was a standard view that can be found in the history of ethical thought prior to Kant who excluded the question of “happiness” from his ethics of duty. Well, in the case of Hartmann (1926), the value of life is not a moral value as such but more like a condition of possibility of the ethos of the community in as much as higher values were “materially founded” on lower values, that is, moral values are founded on the value of goods. At last, he found the position of moral values in the realm of values: moral values depend on non-moral values. Where moral values and their opposites appear in real persons, there a world of real goods must previously have been at hand, to which as objects of value the acts of persons are referred. But the converse is not true. The existence of the world of goods does not involve the emergence of a world of morality and immorality. (Ibid [1932], Vol. II: 25)

Maybe without knowing, he had demarcated ethics from economics, moral values from economic goods. Indeed, “not all acts of a practical nature aim at goods. The higher, distinctively moral phenomena consist of acts of another kind; they are related to values of another sort, to moral values proper” (Ibid, Vol. I: 192). As we remember, the economic value of goods depended on an objective relationship between economic goods and our human needs provided that we have available knowledge of the objective contribution of those goods to our well-being. If so, the economic goods will have value for us and their amount of will depend on their relative importance to our plan of life which includes present and future needs. But can we find something akin in ethics, a theory of moral value? If what we value in ethics is not a good, what is it then? Well, what we value ethically are the things to which our acts aim at: human ends. Indeed, “it is inherent in the nature of an end that its content is of value or at least so regarded. It is impossible to adopt anything as an end, without seeking in it a thing that is valuable” (Ibid: 193). Unlike economic value, in which the objective relationship is between human needs and economic goods, what determines the moral value of human activity is an objective relationship between the person and the end pursued. If so, it depends on discovering the moral values determining what is valuable to pursue in life. Furthermore, unlike our knowledge of the objective contribution of goods to our well-being, moral values do not have a relative value that can be pondered in relation to other values because they are all worth the same amount of value. Of course, this contradicts what Scheler and Hartmann thought because it implies that there is not hierarchy or value-ranking among moral values. However, there was a slight difference between our founders of ethics in this regard. Whereas, for Scheler, absolute values were related to the highest values in the hierarchy, namely, “spiritual values” and “the holy”, for

6.3 The Foundation of Ethics


Hartmann they are related to the acts of the person. Maybe this needs further clarification. In Scheler’s (1913/1916) hierarchy, there were moral values which were not absolute values such as the value-modality of well-being relative to living beings endowed with sensibility because absolute values as such “exist in a type of feeling that is independent of the nature of sensibility and of life as such” (Ibid [1973]: 98). Therefore, according to Hartmann, moral values are by definition absolute values and there can only be one bearer of values exclusively, the moral person who experiences them by means of emotional acts. To put it differently, our animal constitution by means of which we feel values is gradually been left out of the sphere of ethics by replacing the acts of feelings related to “vital feelings” with the pure emotional acts of the person because “moral values are relative to a person as bearer of value”. However, there was an open question which seemed to contradict our founders’ attempts to discover the realm of values, if moral values were absolute how could there be a hierarchy among them? In assuming so, some values must be worth more than others and hence there is a gradation of absoluteness which contradicts the concept of absolute. Scheler did not see any problem because lower values were founded on higher values until the highest value which founded the whole hierarchy of values, the absolute sphere, that is, “the holy” and “value of the person”, founding the ethical sphere. Hartmann could not go that way because the foundational relation between higher and lower values was actually the reverse as moral values were founded on values of goods. Instead, what he did was to introduce a different relation of foundation between values, the “axiological” one, in order to claim that some values are higher than others despite being founded “materially” on the lowest values, non-moral values. How was this relationship among values possible? Well, arguing that when considering higher values something new emerges, an absolute novum which cannot be reduced to the lower values and hence moral values are not axiologically founded on non-moral values. So far so good, but how does this apply to the sphere of ethics in which all moral values are absolute? For Hartmann, this was a complicated question whose answer had to wait until we had discovered the plurality of values instead of taking for granted the preconceived existence of an order of ranks among values like Scheler. Of course, a hierarchical order of values was not the only option but Hartmann wanted to prove it was possible by analysing the moral values that Western history had unveiled for us in addition to those values that he himself had contemplated without anticipating a systematic order among values. He did not find many rational ways to ground that belief but Scheler’s acts of preferring some values in virtue of being higher than others might have convinced of the logical possibility. “The consciousness of their being higher is utterly decisive. Every morally selective consciousness of values is necessarily a consciousness of the scale of values” (Ibid, Vol. II: 47). However, his was a not an unqualified pure hierarchy of value since he argued for the “multidimensionality of the realm of values” in which there was horizontality in addition to verticality, that is, both height between and width among values: “a relation of co-ordination among the different values exists upon the same level” (Ibid: 51). “The order of gradation is thereby simply shown to be at the same time differentiated ‘laterally’”. In other words, “two totally different goods can very


6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

well be of equal value. The same is without further ado to be expected of the moral values” (Ibid.). For Hartmann, this fact was further evidence of the moral conflict in the person who had to choose between values that had the same value. Maybe that value conflict could be resolved by a higher value as a synthesis of both? If so, that could confirm the existence of a hierarchical order among the plurality of values, Hartmann thought. Anyway, moral values of the same worth where not excluded in principle. He also found further evidence the ideal way of being of moral values in Scheler’s criteria to specify the hierarchy of value. All moral values are “supratemporal” as regards duration, indivisible regardless of how many people experience them, axiologically founded and absolute. Therefore, it did not add much to discover the dimension of height within the ideal kingdom of value. Maybe he had to look for further evidence in the history of the ethos where he found, in fact, an interesting insight in relation to the “problem of the supreme value”. Whenever humans have always discovered genuine values, they have always taken them to be the higher ones and the others were only valuable in as much as they could contribute to them. And it is this search for the unity of value that has always resulted in a monism or supreme value underestimating the plurality of values. In fact, “the transitoriness of every current morality is not so much a restricted view of values, as an arbitrariness in regard to a unifying principle” (Ibid: 66). If this is the case, “then there must be an ideal table of values that is unitary and absolute, above the diversity of the historical scale of values” (Ibid: 71). Now, the goal of his ethical investigation was clear enough. In this search of unity, the ideal system of values must aim at the task of unifying possible or historical systems that are partial, and that, regardless of how near or how far we may be from the goal. To overcome “isms” is here a conceivable task. (Ibid: 72)

In the history of ethical thought, those “isms” have resulted from searching for the supreme value in two possible ways, either looking for the most simple or elemental values or for the most complex and rich in content. The “ethics of pleasure, of happiness, of self-preservation” would belong to the first type of monism and the “morality of justice, of love for the nearest, of love for the remotest” to the second type. In both cases, however, the monisms are worked out in abstracto by anticipating a unity of value but “in the domain of values nothing can be anticipated, deduced, or proved generally, we must follow the phenomena of the value consciousness step by step” (Ibid: 69). Having said that, both searches have a “certain justification” in as much as the most elementary values, the values of goods, ground all moral values and as such have the “greatest reach in terms of validity and strength”, whereas the most complex values are more restricted in validity but the highest in value. This is the double relation of foundation we saw earlier. The lowest values provide the material foundation for the higher axiologically founded ones, that is, higher values are axiologically independent from the lowest values. However, what seems to work to demarcate moral values from values of goods because it implies a difference between two domains of knowledge, ethics and economics is generalized to the

6.3 The Foundation of Ethics


domain of moral values by postulating a grand division between basic and special groups of moral values. Again, this presupposes that the plurality of moral values contemplated by the historical ethos, which Hartmann is about to analyse, is hierarchically structured. He starts with the basic moral values of the noble, of plenitude and of purity that are “common to many different kinds of behaviour and in no way characterize one special kind only” (Ibid: 170). Once he has established this fundamental level, he goes on to describe the higher levels of value drawing from the ethical systems of antiquity and of Christianity and, crucially, suggesting a possible group of values that has not been captured by them. But before discussing each group, he provides an answer to the problem of evil. According to Hartmann, man is not satanic since for him a bad behaviour does not come so much from willing a disvalue or negative value, as Scheler suggested, but more from choosing a lower positive value. “Goodness is always turning towards the higher value, evil a turning towards the lower” (Ibid: 185). Now he could also link it to his theory of moral value: “Goodness is the conversion of the higher value into an end”. According to him, this “teleology of the highest value”, as he calls it, is a further confirmation that there is an implicit hierarchy of values, that is, an “objective order of preference”. People are not bad by nature because when they pursue lower values it is because they have a limited view of the realm of values and this also explains the plurality of moralities and the variety of the values that have been claimed to be the “highest value”. So let us introduce very briefly Hartmann’s table of moral values starting with the basic group in which all values belong to the same fundamental level of “the good”, “the morally valuable”. Given that he defines goodness as the pursuit of valuable ends, these basic values suggest things that are morally worth pursuing by human systems. The first is “the noble” related to “the extraordinary” which, of course, cannot be done by everyone, because it is “exclusive” by definition and comes from being “distinguished”, in relation to both persons and the diversity of values that can be contemplated in each case. It sets itself against the mass, against all levelling. Differences of level in the individual ethos are essential to nobility […] from amongst good people it picks out those who from its new point of view are “the best”, just as it ranges what is in its sense the “best” above what is simple good. (Ibid: 197)

In fact, these are the persons that are always ahead of the multitude of people that follow in their footsteps. Then he discusses the value of “plenitude” which compensates for the restricted nature of “the noble” opening itself to the full scope of the diversity of value. From this point of view, not the unity of effort is the highest concern, but the many-­sidedness and diversity of interest, all-round participation in values as an ideal, the ethical exploitation of life which understands and embraces everything. (Ibid: 205–206)

Of course, as Hartmann himself notices, since this value embraces the “teleology of all values” contemplated by our value-consciousness, it contradicts the “teleology of the highest value” or “the extraordinary”. “Here the domination by the order of rank and by the higher values finds its counterpoise” (Ibid: 206). And, finally, he


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analyses the value of “purity” which compensates for the excess of goodness related to the richness of the experience of “plenitude” as it avoids the disvalues and thus can be described as the “ateleology of disvalues”, especially in relation to the lowest or elemental disvalues. “He is pure who no desire leads astray, no temptation allures. His ethos consists of an inner tendency turned away from disvalues altogether and as such” (Ibid: 211). Next in this rank we have the special groups of moral values held by ancient and Christian moralities around the core values of justice and of brotherly love but also another possible group that includes things that he considers morally worthy and that we could consider a “new ethics”. He does not use these last words in that context though he does so at the end of the introduction in relation to the task of philosophical ethics. Its goal lies clear before our eyes: to bring man into conscious possession of his “moral faculty”, to open to him again the world which he has closed against himself […] It signifies a new kind of love for the task at hand, a new devotion, a new reverence for what is great. (Ibid, Vol. I: 46)

We will not say much about the first special group because justice does not belong to the domain of moral values and Hartmann himself notices the “antinomical relation to justice” in discussing the value of brotherly love which he places above it in the hierarchy of values. The second group is distinguished from both “the Platonic love which turns to the Idea” and from Aristotle’s “love of the friend” and is described as “the transference of interest from the I to the Thou” but also as “altruism” understood “in opposition to all egoism” which should not be confused with “sympathy”. One suffers sympathetically only with what is poor, weak and sickly in a human being. But love does not spend itself upon this at all, but upon something else. By its nature it turns toward what is of value, never towards the opposite. (Ibid, Vol. II: 273)

Though starts describing brotherly love as “directed towards whoever is nearest, towards the other person”, the actual moral value he was heading towards only becomes clear in its comparison with the love for the remotest in Chapter 55. Indeed, it is in analysing the last group of values that the love for the nearest takes shape. Furthermore, he also recognizes the value of solidarity which was only partly developed by Scheler. “Everywhere, besides being linked to the community of our own time, we stand in another connection. […] The responsibility which arises therefrom signifies solidarity of a newer and greater kind” (Ibid: 316–317). In other words, whereas Scheler understood solidarity within “community of simultaneity” between individual persons belonging to a collective person, that is, the spatial dimension of reciprocal connection characteristic of the modern world-hypothesis, Hartmann what looking further into the solidarity of the person “towards the generations coming after him”. In our own terms, every solidary human system is responsible for itself and for those systems with which it shares the same spatial-­ temporal organizational level. Not seeing this is due to the “moral immaturity of the living, to their not having wakened to their greatest task. It is their lack of thorough self-conquest, which transcends the sphere of the Now and the Near” (Ibid: 317).

6.4 The Foundation of Jurisprudence


Likewise, the “love for the remotest at first really requires an overcoming of one’s commitment to the nearest. It is the same overcoming which generally inheres in the nature of a future intention” (Ibid: 318). Though Hartmann was placing these new values against each other as manifesting an antinomy, the fact is that he was clarifying for us three different moral values which have the same value. However, this was not his conclusion after the inquiry into the plurality of moral values. On the contrary, “brotherly love is evidently higher in value than justice, love for the remotest higher than brotherly love” (Ibid: 387). To close this section, I would complete that list of possible values with the value of friendship treated by Aristotle (340 BC [1910]) in Nicomachean Ethics and later by Epicurus (c. 300 BC [2014]) in Principal Doctrines and, particularly, The Vatican Sayings. In summary, Scheler and Hartmann founded ethics as a science by opening to us the domain of moral values and by offering us a theory of moral value informed by the concept of utopic system. In particular, the value of human activity is determined by an objective relationship between human systems and the ends pursued provided that they realize the values of friendship, solidarity, love for the nearest and love for the remotest. It is important to bear in mind that entangled human systems working together can do different activities that have the same value which means that there is no supreme value but a plurality of values.

6.4  The Foundation of Jurisprudence Historically speaking, our next sphere of knowledge, jurisprudence, was conceived as a separate branch of philosophy, the philosophy of law, related to political philosophy but independent from moral philosophy. However, it was only recently that Dworkin’s (1986) “legal interpretivism” denied the separation of jurisprudence from moral philosophy in opposition to Hart’s (1958) “legal positivism” that argued for a separation of “the law that is from the law that ought to be”. This debate has a longer history that goes back to Austin (1832), who is considered the founder of legal positivism and, by some, the father of the “science of law” (Markby 1889; Amos 1874). As regards Dworkin, we do not need to add anything else besides remembering what was said in Chapter 3 about his Law’s Empire (1986), namely, that it is a vivid example of the influence of the current world-hypothesis on contemporary jurisprudence. However, in the case of Austin, who was also mentioned in Chapter 4  in relation to the concept of political society, we will discuss his Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832) to show that it was not him but Kelsen (1934) who founded jurisprudence as a human science. What about the history of the philosophy of law or the prehistory of jurisprudence? Maybe the most elaborate history up to the time it was written was perhaps Berolzheimer’s The World’s Legal Philosophies (1905). In terms of its periodization, Ancient legal philosophy starts with the “Origins of Oriental Civilization” from which the “Greco-Roman legal philosophy were derived”, followed by “Medievalism” and, finally, by the “Rise and Decline of Natural Law”. Interestingly,


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we only find a very short paragraph on Austin who was “the founder of the English analytical school of jurisprudence” but whose contributions are not really relevant for his history because “they consider the fundamental questions of legal science rather than those of legal philosophy” (Ibid [1924]: 141). The modern period culminates with “Hegel and the Hegelians” though he also adds a few “recent systems”. As to the most recent contributions of his time, Berolzheimer (1905) has a high praise for Kohler’s “neo-Hegelianism” as being “perhaps the most valid contribution to legal philosophy since Hegel” and for contributing to “the reinstatement of philosophy of law as a worthy philosophical disciple”. Indeed, the prehistory of jurisprudence seems to have ended shortly after that recognition with Kohler’s The Philosophy of Law (1909) since we do not find any other relevant publications until Kelsen’s Pure Theory Law (1934). But not everyone saw the originality of our founder, some legal theorist like Pound (1934) had claimed that “he is a Neo-­ Kantian and builds on Stammler” who in his The Theory of Justice (1925) had made a distinction between “just law” and “positive law”. In particular, “positive law is divided, according to its content, into two classes. It is either just or not. And just law is positive law, the content of which possess the quality of justice” (Ibid [2000]: 18). Furthermore, Stammler had argued that “just law and ethical doctrine have the same domain”. In contrast, Kelsen did not confuse the sphere of law with the sphere of ethics. As to the influence of world-hypothesis in shaping legal thought, we have already seen how the Idea of justice in Plato prescribed a city-state in which every class was occupied doing what was according to their own nature. Furthermore, a just city-­ state was by definition a good city in which its citizens had educated their natural character by living according to that virtue associated to each and all parts of the city. There was no need to do justice in a perfect city-state in which everyone did justice to itself and hence the enforcement of laws was minimal if everyone followed virtue. However, in order to ensure that the guardians got a good education that did not corrupt their young souls, he does talk about establishing good laws that prohibit poets from telling and composing stories that depict Gods doing bad things and even of expelling them from the city if they do not imitate “what good men say”. We also know that Plato wrote the Laws (348 BC [1892]) at the end of his life maybe to do justice to real city-states in which men require a code of law as they do not always live according to virtue. To illustrate this point, May we not conceive each of us living beings to be a puppet of the Gods either their plaything only, or created with a purpose – which of the two we cannot certainly know? But we do know that these affections in us are like cords and strings which pull us different and opposite ways and to opposite actions and herein lies the difference between virtue and vice. (Ibid: I, 644)

Well, “suppose that we give this puppet of ours drink – what will be the effect on him?” Surely he will “return to the state of soul in which he was when a young child” in which he had “the least control over himself”. If so, we require laws to punish the “acts of injustice” resulting from intoxicated souls driven by “anger,

6.4 The Foundation of Jurisprudence


love, pride, ignorance, avarice, cowardice”. Accordingly, laws were the price we had to pay for living in a city-state that was far from the ideal one that Plato had envisioned in the Republic (367 BC [1971]). Next, in the medieval period, we saw that justice came from God who punished our original sin because we had acted against his will and that we will also be judged on the day of the Final Judgement. However, we have the hope that God’s goodness will forgive our original sin by rewarding our love for him with the supreme good, eternal peace, after our mortal death. What about the divide law according to which God will judge our life? Well, Augustine claims that besides the law that prohibits sin, His law was handed down to Moses in Mount Sinai as it is described in the Old Testament but also includes the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. In fact, these two parts of the “Holy Scriptures” are considered by him as the first and second laws given by God. In particular, they consist in the “Ten Commandments” communicated to Moses and the “two commandments” given by the “divine Teacher”: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God” and “Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thyself”. He also tells us that it will not be “the Father” who will judge us at the “end of the world” but “the Son”, Jesus Christ. What about human law? If it is informed by the “will of God”, it is also His law. “As God’s “righteousness” is […] also of that which He produces in the man whom He justifies, so also that is called His law, which, though given by God, is rather the law of men” (XXII: C2). In other words, human law must be grounded on God’s will if His justice is to rule over the earthly city because He is the first legislator and the last judge in the Godstate so, deep down, all justice in the human world is derived from the will of God. In the case of the modern period, legal thought was also shaped by a world-­ hypothesis as we saw in Hobbes’s who rejected the idea of the “two swords” since there was only one kingdom, the civil society, which was ruled by a civil power, the “Mortal God”, and who argued that all justice is grounded on the law of nature, “the dictate of right reason”. “The laws of nature are immutable and eternal; what they forbid, can never be lawful; what they command, can never be unlawful” (1642 [1949]: 57). Therefore, in the state of nature in which the “right of all to all” is justified, it is lawful “to provide ourselves for helps of war” for self-defence and unlawful for a man to do anything “which is destructive of his life”. But even justice in civil society is derived from a natural law which says that men perform their covenants made. From then onwards, all men have to obey the original contract within the civil state in which the “right of all to all” is replace by the right of property of its subjects. A subject can now exclude other subjects from using his land without excluding the sovereign, of course. Indeed, before the state had been established, there was no civil law restricting men’s liberty. However, that civil law now enacted by the legislator is not opposed to natural law. In fact, Hobbes (1651) tells us those two laws are different parts of the law, “whereof one part, being written, is called civil the other unwritten, natural”. And then introduces a distinction to clarify the difference. Unlike natural laws, the positive laws “are those which have not been from Eternity; but have been made Laws by the Will of those that have had the Sovereign Power over others” (Ibid [1909]: 219). In short, all justice in the human world results from the will of the sovereign who is above the law.


6  The History of the Birth of Utopics

What happened in the field of law is similar to what we have seen in the other human sciences prior to the birth of the history of utopics. Western world-­hypotheses entered all the spheres of knowledge in which philosophers could apply logical thinking. However, limiting the Western thinking imagination had many downsides. In terms of ethics, for instance, it ruled out the logical possibility of the love for the remotest beyond the brotherly love, and the value of solidarity was eclipsed by self-­ responsibility because the medieval and modern world-hypotheses did not allow our thinking imagination to see beyond the sphere of the here and now and our self-­ interest. Likewise, in terms of jurisprudence, the domain of justice ends with the boss, the sovereign, who cannot do any unlawful. Therefore, an international law above the sovereign state is logically impossible because all sovereigns live in a state of nature and hence there cannot be any external restriction over their “equal right to all”. If so, the only logical possibility to solve a conflict between sovereign-­ states is the law of the strongest given that no international civil society can result from an original contract between artificial bodies. And even if such an artificial world empire was logically possible, it would still be an absolute power above the law. Fortunately, the sphere of human law is not reducible to the sphere of the state. Instead, jurisprudence is the domain of legal norms regulating the human world and its subject matter is human justice. So when did jurisprudence leave the domain of the philosophy of law to because a human science? We have already claimed that is was born with Kelsen (1934), but in order to justify this, we will have to question both the assumption that Austin was the founder of legal science and that our actual founder belongs to the same school of jurisprudence. Apparently, the basic idea behind legal positivism is “the separation of law and morality” which legal interpretivism, represented by Dworkin (1986), denies. But to put Austin into the right historical context, he wanted to take distance from the natural law tradition in arguing for a “philosophy of positive law” in a course of lectures on “general jurisprudence” which he distinguished from “particular jurisprudence, or the science of particular law”. However, this legal theorist did not break away from the logical space opened up by Hobbes (1651) who had secured the sphere of civil or positive law within the state. Well, what Austin (1832) wanted to do primarily was to determine the boundaries of the “province of jurisprudence” by finding a way to distinguish it from other neighbouring sciences such as ethics by which he understood the sphere of what “ought to be” or “ought not to be”. As he put it, “the existence of a law is one thing; its merits or demerits are another thing” (Ibid [1861]: 233). And thus the sphere of jurisprudence should not be confused with the sphere of “goodness or badness” but neither with “positive morality” which has some resemblance with “positive law”. So the purpose of his lectures what to distinguish law from morality by showing its relationship to other objects of inquiry which might appear to be close to it but are not “law proper” but “laws improper or improperly so called”. This did not mean that jurisprudence was the sole realm of “law proper” because “the laws which are set by God to his human creatures”, that is, “divine laws”, share an essential feature with “positive law”, they are both commands. The main difference between these types of proper laws is the origin of commands which either come from the Will of God or “the Will of those

6.4 The Foundation of Jurisprudence


that have had the Sovereign Power over others”, as Hobbes would put it. In particular, the subject matter of jurisprudence was the study of the commands “set by a sovereign person” to its subjects. But what is a command exactly? Well, a “wish” or “desire” of someone expressed to someone else who will follow it to avoid an evil, that is, a punishment. In addition, that desire has to come from someone that has superiority over other people in terms of being able to inflict the punishment on them. Indeed, if the “desire by determinate superiors” is missing, then “they are not commands, properly so called”. Again, what we see here is the modern world-hypothesis at work. A command is something external limiting the “equal right to all” or “liberty” of people, that is, natural bodies continue in motion unless disturbed by something external, in our case, by the evil inflicted by the party issuing the command, the “sanction”. Conceived in this way, the concept of law is assuming that “rational beings” are not self-determined systems because they are determined by something other than themselves, the will of a superior. However, as our next founder noticed, “legal rules, which according to Austin constitute law, are not actually commands. They exist […] even if the will by which they were created has long ceased to be” (Kelsen 1941: 55). Anyway, what distinguishes “law proper” from “laws improper” found in neighbouring objects of inquiry? Well, for Austin (1832), “positive morality” is constituted by “laws or rules set or imposed by opinion: for they are merely opinions or sentiments held or felt by men in regard to human conduct” (Ibid [1861]: Preface). In addition, this also shows that his sphere of morality does not correspond to the domain of moral values realized by utopic systems. Furthermore, within the sphere of ethics proper, he included the “science of legislation”, that is, “positive law as it ought to be”, to distinguish it from “positive law as it is”, the “science of jurisprudence”. In spite of suggesting a separation between the jurisprudence and morality, he saw a relationship between positive law and a part of positive morality which, though it did not belong to the sphere of the state, it was also to be considered law proper, some “positive moral rules”. In this case, the commands were “not set by men as political superiors” but either by “men living in a state of nature” or by “subjects as private persons”. But, according to Austin, what was lacking here was not the command of some men over others but the sovereign person who could impose the “sanction” if they did not obey it. Indeed, these were positive moral rules that people may choose to follow or not but could not be enforced upon them because the external force that could interfere on their liberty either did not exist or, if it did, it was not its concern. Therefore, these commands did not belong to the sphere of jurisprudence as such but neither to that part of positive morality considered to be “law improper”, namely, international law: “imposed upon nations or sovereigns by opinions current among nations”. The Province of Jurisprudence (1832) included only the positive laws set by a sovereign person to its subjects and excluded from its domain not only the legal norms realized by human systems without a state but also those enacted by entangled human states, the international legal order. In other words, before the establishment of the sovereign state, our ancestors did not have a legal order as such, and,


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despite the prevailing treaties between states, the international laws or “laws of nations” did not constitute a legal order either. However, this did not exclude the existence of Hobbes’s dependent political bodies subjected to those laws, “if the government receiving the command where in a state of subjection to the other, the command, though fashioned on the law of nations, would amount to a positive law” (Ibid: 128). But, according to Austin, by definition, the “sovereign power is incapable of legal limitation”, a “supreme power limited by positive law, is a flat contradiction in terms” (Ibid: 226). In short, the sphere of law is reduced to the sphere of the state. In particular, Austin’s concept of law was reduced to the sphere of independent political society “obeying habitually the express or tacit command of a determinate human superior” which, as we know, is logical space that resulted from isolating on side of Hobbes’s concept of human system, the civil state. In summary, Austin (1832) was far from founding jurisprudence as a human science. For that to happen, would have to wait another century to reach another landmark in the history of utopics with the publication of Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law (1934). That was the moment in which the taken for granted “dualism of law and state” was questioned by noticing that, though “the state is a legal system”, “not every legal system, however, is characterized as a state”. In particular, “this characterization is used only where there the legal system establishes certain organs […] for creating and applying the norms forming the legal system” (Ibid [2002]: 99). If so, the sphere of law cannot be reduced to the sphere of state because a “pre-state legal community” and a “supra-state community” are also legal systems like the state. To put it differently, the legal system is neither born with, nor limited to, the sovereign state. The implication was clear, if there is a legal system above the state, then the entangled states are regulated by an international legal order. In short, legal norms constitute the human world within and without the state. Therefore, the province of jurisprudence cannot be restricted to the positive laws set by the state because “the object of science of law is legal norms” regulating the human world regardless of who makes and applies them. By enlarging the domain of jurisprudence, Kelsen was questioning the very idea of a sovereign person “incapable of legal limitation”, to use Austin’s expression, which made international law logically impossible. In fact, “the theoretical dissolution of the dogma of sovereignty […] is one of the most substantial achievements of the Pure Theory of Law”, (Ibid: 124). But what is Kelsen’s theory of legal norms founding jurisprudence as a human science? Basically, “a legal theory purified of all political ideology […] a theory conscious, so to speak, of the autonomy of the object of tis enquiry” (Ibid: Preface). Historically speaking, the sovereign state was a political idea that was fully realized in Europe when the Peace of Westphalia (1648) was signed after the Thirty Year’s War. And Filmer’s Patriarcha (before 1642 but published in 1680) might have have been the father of that idea which predated Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651). Well, Kelsen understood that if jurisprudence was ever to become a human science, it “required the separation of legal s­ cience from politics” and that meant purifying legal theory from every possible political idea that could ever be realized in the human world. In fact, the fact that his Pure Theory of Law had “been suspected of every single political persuasion there is” was to him the best possible confirmation of its “purity”.

6.4 The Foundation of Jurisprudence


Fascists declare that the Pure Theory is on the side of democratic liberalism, while liberal or social democrats regard it as a trail-blazer of Fascism. Communists write off the Pure Theory as the ideology of capitalist statism, while nationalists and capitalists write it off sometimes as Bolshevism, sometimes as covert anarchism. (Ibid: Preface)

In particular, our founder developed a legal theory that explained “what the law is and how the law is made”. To fight his case, just like ethics had done before, he had to establish a domain which could not be reduced to the empirical facts given to our senses nor to the pure experiences given to our consciousness. In his case, Kelsen claimed that “the independence of this object is threatened from two directions”, namely, psychology and biology, representing natural science, and ethics and theology, representing moral imperatives. And that “the Pure Theory takes both into account”. Indeed, when analysing acts regulated by law, one can distinguish two elements. There is an act perceptible to the senses taking place in time and space, an external event, usually an instance of a human behaviour. And there is a specific meaning […] immanent in or attached to the act or event. (Ibid: 8)

These two simultaneous parts are already familiar to us because they correspond to the actual fact and the possible idea or, as Kelsen would call them, the “natural material fact” and its “meaning”. What he was trying to say was that, after the realization of a possible idea in the legal order, a human behaviour becomes regulated by a legal norm. That simultaneity of an actual fact (act) and a possible idea (norm) of every legal order is what he had in mind when he said that “the content of an actual event corresponds to the content of a given norm” (Ibid: 10). Furthermore, to clarify the factual side of the law, he introduced the concept of the validity of a norm. That is, “the norm must, then, also determine in its content both where and when the behaviour takes place” (Ibid: 12). And, in this sense, we can say that the norm refers to the sphere of ought, the behaviour that “ought to take place”, which is further specified by including what particular human behaviour is the object of the norm, “an objective (or material) sphere of validity of the norm”. However, we are still missing the sphere of “is” to clarify what the law is rather than what the law ought to be. In particular, the legal norm is understood “as a hypothetical judgement that expresses the specific linking of a conditioning material fact with a conditioned consequence” (Ibid: 23). He calls this mode of legal reasoning “imputation” in which a material fact results in a legal consequence: “if A is, then B ought to be”. That legal consequence is, in fact, the coercive act associated to a human behaviour against the law. By saying so, Kelsen is suggesting two things. On the one hand, that the human world is ruled by a man-made form of causality and, on the other, that the realized legal order implies the distinction between “is” and “ought”. That is, how human systems actually behave corresponds to some extent to how they ought to behave according to the law otherwise the legal order has no efficacy. However, there is never a full coincidence between “is” and “ought” because it will “either exceed a specified maximum or fall below a specified minimum”. In the first case, the legal order will lose its validity because every possible human activity will be regulated under the law and, in the second case, its efficacy, because the actual


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human activity will not conform to the law. And the “tension between ‘ought’ and ‘is’” implies the simultaneous actuality-possibility duality of the human world. Validity and efficacy are two completely distinct qualities; and yet there is a certain connection between the two. Jurisprudence regards a legal norm as valid only if it belongs to a legal order that is by and large efficacious; that is, if the individuals whose conduct is regulated by the legal order in the main actually do conduct themselves as they should according to the legal order. (1941: 50)

A legal norm is not a command set by God or by a sovereign person to its creatures or subjects, but a legal obligation that enters the legal order by mean of custom, a “decentralized creation by way of the legal parties themselves”, or by enactment, “a purposeful creation brought about by central organs”. Of course, the second case implies a centralized legal system, a state, subjected to a basic norm that regulates how the law is made. This introduces not only a different type of human behaviour which is also subjected to a legal norm, namely, the legal acts by mean of which we enact other legal norms that regulate material facts, but also a relationship between legal norms. Indeed, Kelsen’s (1934) Pure Theory of Law captures the hierarchical structure constituting every legal order in which there is a “higher and lower-level ordering of norms. The norm determining the creation is the higher-level norm, the norm created in accordance with this determination is the lower-level norm” (1934: 64). In the case of a centralized legal system as the state, the highest level corresponds to the constitution whose essential function “consists in governing the organs and the process of general law creation, that is, of legislation” (Ibid.). But how does Kelsen argue that there is international law order above the state then? Well, he claims that the state legal system is legitimated by international law as long as it is a coercive system, that is, “in so far at it actually becomes effective”. Therefore, “this principle of effectiveness […] functions as the basic norm of the various state legal systems” (Ibid: 61). This is logically consistent with the distinction between “natural material fact” and its “meaning”, namely, the state behaviour regulated by an international legal norm. However, in keeping with the tension between “ought” and “is”, I would also add that the organizational level shared by entangled states depends on some coincidence between their actual behaviour and how they ought to behave according to international law. Again, for this international legal order to be valid and effective, it cannot overregulate nor underdeterminate the behaviour of states. Finally, according to Kelsen’s theory of legal norms, international law is what accomplishes the coordination between different state legal systems under “one system made up of hierarchically ordered, consecutive strata of law” (Ibid: 71). However, this does not exclude the “conflict between norms of different levels” which “is resolved by the law itself” to overcome the problem of the “norm contrary to norm” and ensure that “the unity of the hierarchical structure of the legal system is not endangered by legal contradiction” (Ibid: 75). But, according to Kelsen, there is still another problem at the international level that does not happen in the state. Even though the international legal order is a coercive system that can impose a sanction as a consequence of material fact, a delict, it is a decentralized system.

6.5 The Foundation of Aesthetics


“There are still no organs, whose respective functions reflect a division of labour, for creating and applying legal norms” (Ibid: 108). However, one wonders whether Kelsen’s thinking imagination could see beyond the sovereign state when he suggested that the international legal order is a primitive system. “The supra-state community constituted by the international legal systems is insufficiently centralized to be considered a state” (Ibid: 100). In my opinion, if states are human systems sharing the same level of organization working together for justice, what we need is not to subject “the primacy of national law” to “the primacy of international law” but a world constitution enacted by equal entangled states subjecting themselves to the law. In saying so, I am stepping out of the domain of the realized legal norms regulating the human world while remaining within the fundamental question of jurisprudence, human justice, which is another of the fundamental problems of utopics. To complete this section, we should recall Scheler’s remark regarding the “order of right” which he tried to relate to the ethics by claiming that “values are never based on the necessity of the ought”. Thus, only what is good can become “duty”. However, the order of right is not grounded on the value of right-wrong within spiritual values, as he believed, nor reducible to the civil law made by the sovereign power, as Hobbes believed. In other words, what is right-wrong is neither related to our emotional life, that is, love-hate, nor to the will of a sovereign or God. Instead, the order of right from which our legal norms originate is the sphere of duty which somehow coincides with the sphere of legal obligation. If we understand the order of right in this way, the legal order is not necessary a coercive system if a delict according to the law coincides with our own sphere of what ought-not be. Conversely, there is human behaviour that belongs to the sphere of what ought to be even though it is not regulated by any legal norm making it a legal obligation. In fact, the difference between what ought to be and the actual legal order is what utopic systems cannot accept and what brings them together to realize possible legal norms through politics. Therefore, unlike Hobbes, we should not let our thinking imagination be shaped by the modern world-hypothesis in thinking that the legal order is an external impediment imposed by an absolute state on its subjects, because realized legal norms originate in the utopic activity of self-determined systems.

6.5  The Foundation of Aesthetics We are now heading towards the last landmark in the history of the birth of utopics with the foundation of the last human science, aesthetics. This term is said to have been coined for the first time by the so-called founder of the discipline, Baumgarten (1750), who is credited by the first historians of the field for “having first conceived an Aesthetics founded on principles of reason” (Koller 1799), “aesthetics as a philosophical science” (Zimmermann 1858). However, according to Kant (1781/1787), that first attempt was a “disappointed hope” given that the “judgement of taste”, the subject matter of aesthetics, cannot be derived from empirical sources. We cannot trace the prehistory of aesthetics any further back even though the founders of


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pre-­modern world-hypotheses also talked about art in their work. Yet, those previous periods, in which we cannot speak of aesthetic thought as such, are well covered by the best prehistories of aesthetics available up to the twentieth century, namely, Bosanquet’s A History of Aesthetic (1892) and Croce’s Aesthetic (1902). Both seem to agree that Eduard von Hartmann’s Aesthetics (1886–1887) marks the end of German tradition mainly preceded by Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics (1818–1829). So we can say that the prehistory of aesthetics runs primarily from Kant’s to Hegel’s influence without any other relevant philosophical contributions until the appearance of Nicolai Hartmann’s Aesthetics (1953). In fact, this, his last work, marks not only the foundation of aesthetics as a human science but also the constitution of utopics as a new domain of science. Before we show how the modern world-hypothesis has shaped the field, we should also say that the contemporary philosophy of art has also fallen prey to our post-modern world-hypothesis. A good example is Beardsley’s Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (1958) which reduces aesthetical inquiry to the analysis of “critical statements”, “what the critic says about works of art”, and argues that “there would be no problems of aesthetics […] if no one ever talked about works of art”. Ironically, Beardsley also wrote today’s prevalent short history of Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present (1968) which only confirms the historical void in the field during the first half of the twentieth century. And only mentions Hartmann’s Aesthetics (1953) through a secondary source! Unfortunately, that foundational work was not translated into English until 2014 though it was available in Spanish since 1977. Philosophically speaking, aesthetics was born with Kant since he was the first to understand that what is beautiful could not be determined by a subjective judgement based on whether a work of art is agreeable to the senses. If so, the judgement of taste would never be universally valid because it could vary from subject to subject. However, he realized that this could not be the case because there was some agreement among subjects on what constituted a beautiful object suggesting that taste was a “common sense” found in all subjects. So he wrote the Critique of Judgement (1790) to explain how the judgements of taste were possible in the same way as he had done with the judgements of knowledge in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787). In this case, the condition of possibility of aesthetic judgements did not depend on subsuming phenomena given to the “sensibility” under a concept of the “intellect”, because they worked the other way round, a particular was found to be universally valid. But this could not happen unless there was a faculty in the subject that had the capacity to set itself freely the law that converted the particular in universal, the imagination. To put it differently, whereas in the judgements of knowledge the “intellect” imposes a law on the phenomena, “the particular as contained under the universal”, in the judgements of taste, the faculty of phenomena (imagination) is subsumed under the faculty of concepts (intellect). And, by doing so, Kant (1790) was deriving an object not found in nature from the subject since one of the conditions that he discovered in the judgements of taste was that they were indifferent to whether the object existed or not as long as the representation fitted the rational faculties of the subject. Indeed, he wanted to demonstrate the

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universal validity of the aesthetic judgements which are independent of the senses. Of course, he could not drive out “sensibility” completely because in the judgement of taste there was also a “feeling of pleasure”. So he had to distinguish between what is agreeable to irrational animals from what is beautiful to rational animals because the judgement of taste is independent from what pleases the senses. In particular, the aesthetic judgements entailed a satisfaction related to the representation of the imagination from which it aroused. In particular, the feeling of pleasure did not come from an external object but from the form of the object which is what is judged as beautiful in the judgement of taste. This beautiful object, which can be natural or artistic, is what thought as such “not only for the subject which apprehends this form, but for every judging being in general” and “the ground of the pleasure is placed merely in the form of the object of reflection in general” (Ibid [1914]: 32). But what are exactly those objects whose form the subject judges as beautiful? Unlike the objects of the judgements of knowledge which are phenomena appearing in space and time, the objects approved by the judgement of taste are aesthetic ideas of the imagination. Furthermore, these objects which originate in the “supersensible” can enter the “sensible” when they find expression in the fine arts through the original genius. In essence, this was Kant’s aesthetics framed within the logical possibilities allowed by the Subject-Object dualism of the modern world-hypothesis. What is approved in the judgement of taste is the beautiful form of the object in as much as the imagination, in its freedom, coincides with the intellect, in its conformity to laws. However, the form of the object does not coincide with a concept of the intellect subsuming phenomena given to the sensibility. No, the form of the object is produced by the imagination whose is free to “schematize without concepts”. In other words, the judgement of taste is not determined by the legality of extended objects but by that of the thinking subject who can prescribe a law to itself which is universally valid for all subjects, that is, “subjective a priori”, because it is not an empirical law. Indeed, the modern world-hypothesis did not rule out the logical possibility of referring the representations to the thinking subject without necessarily corresponding to an external object. In order to distinguish whether anything is beautiful or not, we refer the representation, not by the intellect to the object of cognition, but by the imagination (perhaps in conjunction with understanding) to the subject and its feeling of pleasure and pain. (Ibid: 45)

But in referring the representations to the subject independent of whether the object represented existed or not, Kant could not postulate another realm of objects because there was only two spheres, the sensible constituted by the phenomena and supersensible coinciding with “a thing in itself”. If this was the case, there could only be two types of concepts, “natural concepts” and the “concept of freedom”, corresponding to natural philosophy and moral philosophy. So aesthetics did not have a realm of objects of its own and “aesthetical judgements contributed nothing towards the knowledge of its objects” because they are based on the feeling of pleasure and pain. In short, aesthetics was not a sphere of knowledge as such but more like an “annex” to theoretical philosophy. This did not mean that aesthetics was


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philosophically irrelevant. On the contrary, Kant believed that aesthetical judgement where, in fact, the key to unify the “sphere of nature” and the “sphere of freedom” in as much as it provided “the mediating link between the cognitive faculty and the faculty of desire” necessarily to bring together the theoretical and the practical parts of his philosophy. The founder of philosophical aesthetics did not found a new scientific discipline after all. But, our next philosopher, Schelling (1775–1854) did not accept that philosophical conclusion because there was indeed a “science of art” even if his predecessors had not reached it. He agreed with Kant that we could not found aesthetics on empiricism because art transcended the sphere of sensible, indeed, but limiting the form of the object to the sphere of the supersensible did not do full justice to the really existing works of art. Instead, he understood that the true subject matter of aesthetics was art itself rather than the judgement of taste which was only directed to the form of the object as a representation referred to the subject. However, true to the modern world-hypothesis, a philosophical system had to give equal weight to the two members of the dualism, the subject and the object, which for Schelling (1800) meant carrying out a specific task: “to find the point at which subject and object are immediately one (Ibid [1987]: 65)”. But, as with all dualisms, the subject and the object were opposing members which defied any possible identity. So he could only imagine one possible logical way of demonstrating their identity, to postulate the concept of absolute in which nature and consciousness coincided. However, now he had to redefine those opposites somehow without compromising their identity. The objective, as the particular, corresponded to the real in art and the subjective, as the universal, to the ideal in philosophy. And the task of the philosophy of art was to show how in the sphere of art the real is exhibited in the ideal, the particular in the universal. As Schelling (1802–1803) put it, “the philosophy of art is the exhibition of the universe in the form of art” which “has to exhibit effectively what is infinite in itself as particular, or at least it has to be able to exhibit it” (Ibid [1987]: 180–181). In short, art is the domain of the absolute: the identity of the particular and the universal. As he had already anticipated in his System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), The ideal world of art and the real world of objects are, therefore, products of one and the same activity; the congruence of the two (the conscious and the nonconscious) without consciousness yields the real, and with consciousness the aesthetic world. (Ibid [1987]: 54)

Having thought about it during a couple of years, he could now share the mayor finding of his Philosophy of Art (1802–1803), namely, the universal principle of the science of art: “the infinite [is] the unconditioned principle of art”. “[Art] views or intuits primal beauty only in ideas as particular forms, each of which, however, is divine and absolute in itself […] These real or objective, living and existing ideas are the gods” (Ibid [1987]: 181). Contrary to Kant, ideas do not belong originally to the sphere of the “supersensible” because we have immediate access to them in the sphere of the sensible. “Beauty is neither merely the universal or ideal […] nor the merely real […]. Hence, it is only the complete interpenetration or mutual informing of both” (Ibid: 190).

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Now it was up to Hegel (1770–1831) to work out the last thinking possibility for philosophical aesthetics within the modern world-hypothesis. He acknowledges that thanks to Schelling “the actual notion of art and its place in scientific theory were discovered”. That notion was the absolute which he accepted, indeed, but not his identity between nature and consciousness. The absolute is for Hegel the absolute spirit and “art is a mode of absolute spirit” in which it comes to know itself as absolute Idea. Furthermore, “art is far from being the highest form of the mind” though it belongs to the “realm of comprehending thought” together with religion and philosophy. Why is art an inferior form of knowledge? According to Hegel (1818–1829), art represent “the highest ideas in sensuous forms” but “the world, into whose depths thought penetrates, is a supra-sensuous world, which is thus, to begin with erected as a beyond over against immediate consciousness and present sensation” (Ibid [1886]: 13). So far from postulating an identity between nature and consciousness, he argued for an opposition between “the finite actuality of nature and the infinite freedom of the reason that comprehends”. However, as we will see, art is the place in which they “reconcile into a full and unified totality” when the absolute Idea, as concrete content, is represented in sensuous form. In mark contrast to Schelling, the ideal is exhibited in the real, the universal in the particular, rather than the other way round. Indeed, that opposition is now reframed in terms of the finite and the infinite to give life to the absolute spirit in coming to know itself in art as absolute idea. Art, according to Hegel, is the “realm of the beautiful” whose province includes artistic beauty understood as fine art and excludes natural beauty: “artistic beauty stands higher than nature”. This can only mean that, unlike fine art, nature does not represent the highest ideas of the absolute spirit. But what is artistic beauty? Art is a product of the absolute spirit in which the mind apprehends ideas sensually: “for the beauty of art is that beauty that is born – born again, that is – of the mind”. Of course, since the mind is not something sensuous, he will distinguish that to which it is addressed, “to sensuous feeling, outer or inner, to sensuous and imagination”, from subjective consciousness. And the work of art is a sensuous object that satisfies the mind in a particular way. Unlike with other sensuous objects, the relation to the thinking subject is neither a “purely sensuous apprehension”, bodily pleasure related to material nature, nor a “purely theoretical relation to the Intelligence”, that is, to our rational nature. Instead, art is for the mind what “must only appear as surface and semblance of the sensuous”, that is, the sensuous appearance of the Idea but not the idea itself whose apprehension corresponds to philosophy exclusively, the highest form of knowledge. Furthermore, the apprehension of that sensuous aspect of the idea can only come from the “theoretical senses of sight and hearing”, the “sources of artistic enjoyment”, because what the other senses feel does not satisfy the mind, only the body. In other words, “in art, the sensuous is spiritualized, i.e., the spiritual appears in sensuous shape”. Once Hegel (1818–1829) has excluded the sensuous feelings of the body from the sensuous aspect of art satisfying the mind, he is ready to clarify “the end of art”, that is, the vocation of art: “revealing the truth in the form of sensuous artistic shape, of representing the reconciled antithesis” between the universal and the particular


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(Ibid [1886]: 102). That antithesis is also framed “as the sensuous and spiritual in man” as well as “abstract self-concentrated mind” versus “actual nature” but the all amount to the opposition between the infinite and the finite. And credit Schelling with having accepted art, “even if erroneously in one respect”, “in its higher and genuine vocation”. His mistake was to reconcile the particular with the universal in their identity, the absolute, because the infinite is immanent to the finite. In fact, in conceiving art as the identity of the particular and universal, Schelling could not understand the beauty of art which consists first in distinguishing the two essential sides of art. On the one hand, the content of art, “the sensuous representation of the absolute itself”, the absolute Idea, and, on the other, its form, which “lies in the plastic use of images accessible to sense”. The end of art thus is to reconcile those two extremes “by combing metaphysical universality with the determinateness of real particularity” in as much as the mind can capture the content in the sensible form. This reconciliation of the infinite in the finite found in true art depends on a few requirements. First, the content “shall show itself to be in its nature worthy of [artistic] representation”, “otherwise we only obtain a bad combination”. Second, the content “should not be anything abstract in itself” which means that it has to be concrete otherwise the end of art cannot be achieved. He also adds that the sensuous form must be something individual. These requirements amount to saying that in true artistic beauty the absolute Idea fits its sensuous form or that “defectiveness of form arises from defectiveness of content”. According to Hegel, we can now look back at the history of art and appreciate the “realm of the beautiful” and see how the different forms of art have realized the true Idea of beauty only defectively until the “romantic form of art”. And, based on the achievement of the end of art, we can now rank the fine arts we find in “the world of actualized beauty” in terms of the Subject-­ Object dualism. Those that are nearer to objectivity, such as architecture and sculpture, are lower fine arts in comparison to the higher fine arts nearer to subjectivity, such as painting, music and poetry, in a gradual transition from “objectivity as yet devoid of mind” to “subjective inwardness”. It is as the external realization of this Idea [of beauty] that the wide Pantheon of art is being erected, whose architecture and builder is the spirit of beauty as it awakens to self-­ knowledge, and to complete which the history of the world will need its evolution of ages. (Ibid: 175)

In summary, Hegel’s worked out the last logical possibility in philosophical aesthetics: the schism in fine art between (supra-sensible) content and (sensuous) form. From that point onwards, the thinking imagination of the German tradition was not able to think beyond the antithesis between the aesthetics of content and the aesthetics of form, as Eduard von Hartmann (1886) described those two schools. This is the end of the prehistory of aesthetic thought as a branch of philosophy born with Kant (1790). In comparison to the other spheres of thought, aesthetics is the youngest of all as it barely covers a century in the history of Western thought since economics started a bit earlier with Smith (1776), jurisprudence with the natural law tradition founded on reason that dates back to Hobbes (1642, 1651) and ethics with Plato’s

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Republic (367 BC [1971]). Another difference with the modern prehistories is that whereas economics and jurisprudence were informed by a particular concept of human system, Hobbes’s civil society, aesthetic thought was grounded on the general anthropology of the modern world-hypothesis, rational nature. We would have wait for the last of our founders of human science to embrace the new concept of human system in the domain of the arts. So it is time to approach the end of the beginning of the history of utopics with the foundation of aesthetics constituting, together with that of economics, ethics and jurisprudence, a new domain of science: the science of utopic systems. Nicolai Hartmann (1882–1950) was not only the last contemporary philosopher with his The Structure of the Real World (1940), the last work in the domain of world-hypothesis, but also the founder of ethics, together with Scheler (1913/1916), and of aesthetics in the domain of human science. For him, unlike the former domain of ontological categories constituting the real world, the latter were the “domains of incomplete reality” in which the sphere of possibility and of necessity did not coincide. In the case of moral values belonging to ideal being, they will only coincide real being when their demand on a person as what “ought to be” is made reality by its activity. But, as to aesthetic values, the artist does not realize anything but only makes appear something beautiful in the work of art. “The artist creates a realm that does not pretend at all to be real but to fake it as real”. In this sense, he described artistic creation as derealisation in as much as the artist does not realize something with a real way of being. Indeed, the object that appears in any aesthetic contemplation is neither something real nor something ideal, the only two possible “ways of being”. And, therefore, he had to add a “secondary way of being” that only applied to aesthetic objects, the irreal, which he also described in The Problem of Spiritual Being (1933) as the being-for-us. However, it posed a difficulty because he thought that the domain of aesthetic values was somehow part to the realm of value which, in turn, belonged to the sphere of the ideal being. Later in the Introduction to Philosophy (1949) and Aesthetics (1953), the “realm of art” was said to be “an altogether different domain” from values of goods and moral values though he still thought that is was possible to located aesthetic values somewhere in the hierarchy of values but not in the present state of our inquiry. What seems to have gone unnoticed by Hartmann is that he had, in fact, demarcated the domain of aesthetics from economics and ethics. Indeed, aesthetic appearances are neither goods on which our well-being depends nor values that demand our realization and are also far from being mere illusions because “true art […] does not simulate reality”. In particular, in the domain of art, the artist is not limited by the real being because he has at his disposal “the unlimited possibilities of the possible not real”: “art [is] a realm of unlimited possibilities”. Of course, this assumes our new concept of human system since utopic systems have the “freedom of possibility”, that is, they can look into the future as something possible that is different from the actual real world. Our founder also noticed a singularizing feature of the domain of art which made it unique when compared to science: “the historical ‘advance’ of artistic creations”. In other words, great works of art can prevail in the human world as long as there are people than can appreciate their beauty while theories decline with scientific progress. Though


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Hartmann would avoid using the word “constitute” in relation to art, I would say that art constitutes the real human world which is always renewed by new aesthetic appearances without necessarily replacing older aesthetical appearances, and, therefore, in this sense, it is also different from the domain of legal norms and of economic goods. The first time that Hartmann (1933) talked about “aesthetic objects” was in the context of the “objective spirit” whose essence was constituted by “spiritual contents”, that is, intentional objects with a symbolic nature. And in the Introduction to Philosophy (1949), he also thought in terms of the artist producing something that represents something. In fact, this idea would remain in the background of his thinking imagination, while he wrote Aesthetics (1953) as show in the part of the manuscript he was not able to complete before this death in 1950 that starts with the following subheading found in the second part: “Ideas in literature”. This unfinished part was a first draft he started writing in the summer of 1945 up to September 11. Ironically, though it was preceded by the subheading “Limits to what can be expressed”, the idea of “spiritual content”, now reappearing as the “structures of content” in the work of art, still informs the first section called “The Series of Strata in the Arts” in the second part which Hartmann did not finish. Indeed, according to Hartmann, the “aesthetic object” has multiple strata of content and each of which has its own “Aesthetic Form” whose treatment is found in the next section in which he tries to combine his idea of the multiple strata of reality with Hegel’s content-­ form dualism constituting true art. Was he trying to integrate the last logical possibility of the modern world-hypothesis within the last Western world-hypothesis? Indeed, this seems to be confirmed by the last section of the second part called “Unity and Truth in Beauty” in which “representational art” can be “true” or “untrue” depending on whether it is “successful” in capturing the “form that has already been built in nature”, that is, natural beauty, and there is also “true-to-life” in the traditional fine arts including the “non-representation arts” such as music and architecture. Fortunately, in the first part of Aesthetics (1953) that Hartmann did managed to rewrite in 1950, the aesthetic object is neither a “spiritual content” nor aims at truth. “What appears at any point does so without the weight of reality, without any responsibility for the true and the false, without any claim to truth” (Ibid [1977]: 95). In contrast, for Schelling and Hegel, art aimed at revealing the truth of the universe, an idea that is very prominent in Schopenhauer for whom art was close to philosophy. However, if aesthetics was to become a separate domain of science, the sphere of art had to become an autonomous disciple with its own subject matter, human beauty, that could not be restricted to the artistic beauty of the traditional fine arts assumed by philosophical aesthetics. In the case of Hartmann, the sphere of beauty was even broader, “beauty in general, regardless of where and how it appears”, such as the “beauty in nature”. But, if the human world is constituted by realized ideas, we can only include artistic beauty in an open sense which is not limited by the arts that we know today. By the way, our founder had a broad understanding of the fine arts in which he also included ornament, the decorative arts, and he also talked about cinema, “theatre and the art of the actor” and “musical

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execution”, that is, the performing arts in addition to the visual arts such as painting, sculpture and architecture. So what was Hartmann’s actual scientific contribution to the field of aesthetics? Well, he discovered a theory of aesthetic appearances whose foundational ideas can already be found in the Problem of Spiritual Being (1933), but its full development would have to wait for the first part of Aesthetics (1953) rewritten in 1950. In the former book, he introduced three fundamental “forms of the spirit”, the personal, the objective and the objectified spirit, as the products of the personal spirit in the form of spiritual products with “spiritual contents” that have become “fixed”. Unlike the objective spirit, the objectified spirit is “elevated above the flow of the historical real life, elevated, so to speak, to ideality […] it can be said, then, that it is also elevated above reality” (Ibid [2007]: 126). These spiritual products included the arts and inventions of the personal spirit but also “all creations of thought shaped and recorded in writing” that can change with time. In the case of a genuine work of art, however, the spiritual content can persist without change because it “prescribes a type of vision, in which is can only be seen”. Looking closer at the structure of the objectified spirit, Hartmann suggested that it was constituted by a dual stratification, a “real configuration” that can be perceived and a “spiritual content” in which the work is objectified. More precisely, the real-sensible stratum exists independently of the spirit that apprehends, but the spiritual content, that is fixed in it – the background stratum of the total image – exists always only “for” the spirit that apprehends. So, in every objectification, we could talk of a “foreground” and a “background”. (Ibid: 496)

Furthermore, he noticed that it is only through the foreground, the real stratum, that the background can be contemplated as something different, the unreal stratum, and that “the beautiful as such does not lie only in the background nor only in the foreground, but only in the reunion of both” (Ibid: 517). This was the foundational idea behind his theory of aesthetic appearances. Indeed, later Hartmann (1949) realized that it was something unique to art, “the two strata of the aesthetic object can be found in all the arts down to the very last detail”. If so, “this means, then, that aesthetic vision is able to penetrate beyond the foreground, beyond the real, and capture a second layer, the unreal” (Ibid [1961]: 189). He also discovered what gives the universal character to the work of art, the “subjective universality” that Kant had talked about, namely, an aesthetic vision that generates the same pleasure to every subject. Of course, this “universality” did not mean that it was valid for all subjects but only for those that could appreciate the aesthetic appearance. As with ethics, Hartmann’s turning point came from analysing the object more than the act, that is, the structure of the aesthetic object rather than only “the act of reception, of contemplation” as had been done in philosophical aesthetics. Far from limiting his inquiry to the object, he was able to illuminate the act of creation of the artist who gives shape to the foreground starting from the background. This is consistent with our concept of utopic systems who realize possible ideas, that is, aesthetic appearances originating in the sphere of unrealized possibility.


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But what is exactly the aesthetic vision that we can see realized in the work of art? When investigating the aesthetic act of contemplation, he distinguished something like two visions that merged together, the first-order or sensible vision and the second-order or supra-sensible vision which adds something new to what we perceive through the senses. To Hartmann (1953), this meant that the former is the condition of possibility of the latter but “both types of visions form an inseparable whole, within which they are interwoven and mutually conditioned” (Ibid [1977]: 24). In particular, The beautiful thing is a double object, but single. It is a real object, and is given to the senses that way, but it is not reducible to the givenness; rather it is equally a quite different, unreal kind of object that appears in the real one, or arises from behind it. What is beautiful is neither the first object nor the second alone. (Ibid: 42)

In other words, the person that can appreciate a work of art can see more in it than the person that does not and the key to decipher that mystery depended on the investigation of the aesthetical relation of appearance which connected the analysis of the act with the analysis of the object. Indeed, that mystery of the double vision could only mean that the work of art was constituted by a double stratum. However, his great insight was not the confirmation of his foundational idea, but the discovery that in the second-order vision of the background there was a satisfaction not reducible to the first-order vision of the foreground: “the synthesis between vision and enjoyment”. In other words, what Hartmann had discovered was that in the aesthetical relation of appearance there was a coincidence between two moments, namely, what appears in the vision, the aesthetical appearance and the satisfaction experienced, the enjoyment. If this is always the case whenever someone appreciates a work of art, what appears must be universally pleasing for every subject, even if it is only seen by a few. This is Hartmann’s theory of the aesthetical appearance and the foundation of aesthetics as a human science. In order to distinguish clearly what appears behind what is perceptible, Hartmann wanted to take distance from the prehistory of aesthetic thought. Beauty is something that appears in the work of art, but Hegel had also said something similar, “the sensible appearance of the Idea”. Here, the beautiful is not the “idea” itself but its “appearance”, “the semblance of the sensuous”, as Hegel had said. The appearance itself is sensible though what appears, the idea, is non-sensible. Of course, this sounded similar to what Hartmann had to say about the two visions, the sensible and the supra-sensible. The difference lay in how the aesthetic idea was understood by the German idealism, namely, as being something general, that is, ideal, universal and infinite as opposed the real, particular and finite. The error, according to Hartmann, was in not realizing that “the essence of the beautiful is not the appearance of something perfect […] but the fact that it ‘appears’”. In fact, the ideal did not belong the domain of aesthetic appearances whose way of being was neither real being nor ideal being but that of the unreal. Indeed, “the non-ideal, individual, unique and also typical” appears in the work of art. Finally, the domain of art is not related to semblances that reveal truth but to aesthetic enjoyment. Hegel had

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assumed a concept of human system as rational nature blinding his thinking imagination which could only see aesthetic vision as something logically inferior to abstract philosophical thought. Again, the aesthetic idea or the “background that appears, the spiritual content, is unreal”. He must have written this sentence while working on the first draft of Aesthetics (1953) completed during the summer of 1945, as we are told by Frida Hartmann in the Postscript to that work. However, presumably in 1950, he introduced the following caveat to avoid conflating the background with something general. The background can to a certain extent be apprehended by the senses and therefore appear to enter perception, as is the case in many works of art […] The expression “spiritual content” must therefore be used with care. The background need not be ideal, neither as a thought nor as an ideal object of intuition. (Ibid: 106)

Exactly, the foreground and the background are not two heterogeneous visions that overlap in the work of art, but one single aesthetic vision resulting from the realization of an aesthetic idea by an artistic system. In the works of art, we discover the simultaneity of actuality and possibility constituting the human world because what appears in the aesthetical vision is the coincidence between actual facts, the foreground, and possible ideas, the background. Moreover, “the work of art holds tightly to its background; it lets the background appear through epochs and cultures, as long as there is a subject that sees adequately” and enjoys the aesthetic vision behind the foreground (Ibid: 203). With the birth aesthetic science, we finish our short history of human science giving birth to the domain of utopics thanks to the work of its founding fathers: Menger (1871), Scheler-Hartmann (1913–1926), Kelsen (1934) and Hartmann (1953). Strictly speaking, utopics was not a new domain of science when it was born nearly 70  years ago because it was missing a world-hypothesis to ground itself philosophically. But I believe that this is no longer the case, that we now have a new world-hypothesis with a new concept of human system that informs the science of utopic systems. Therefore, we can claim that utopics has been born from doing philosophy again and the same holds true for neo-cybernetics whose foundational scientific work has also been. However, there is a difference between these two new domains of science which also applies in relation to the established domains of science, the physical and the biological sciences. Unlike these domains of science, which were unified by a general theory that answered a fundamental question, the domain of utopic does not seem to have a fundamental question and what seems to hold the human sciences together is the fact that they all share the same concept of human system. Indeed, what seems unusual in the domain of human science there is no general theory of utopic systems. Of course, we could always say that the general theory is the general concept of utopic system which does not seem to be the case either because we have found that each human science has been founded on a scientific theory that explains an autonomous sphere of knowledge within utopics. So all we can conclude at this particular moment of our inquiry is that they all belong together in as much as they share the same anthropology corresponding to a


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new world-hypothesis. Does this mean that the unification of utopics is impossible given that there is no fundamental question whose answer would unify this whole domain of science? Well, the answer to this question deserves to be dealt with in a separate chapter.

References Amos, S. (1874). The Science of Law. New York: D. Appleton and Co. Aristotle (340 BC). (1910). Nicomachean ethics. London: George Routledge & Sons. Ashby, W. R. (2008). Journal (1928-1972), The W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive, 2008. http://www. rossashby.info/journal. Accessed 19 May 2020. Augustine (426 AD). (1913). The city of god. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Austin, J. (1832) [1861]. The province of jurisprudence determined. London: John Murray. Baumgarten A. G. (1750). Aesthetica. Impens. I.C. Kleyb. Beardsley, M.  C. (1958). Aesthetics: Problems in the philosophy of criticism. New  York and Burlingame: Harcourt, Brace & World. Beardsley, M. C. (1968) [1975]. Aesthetics from classical Greece to the present: A short history. Alabama: The University of Alabama Press. Bentham, J. (1789) [1907]. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Berolzheimer, F. (1905) [1924]. The world’s legal philosophies. New  York: The Macmillan Company. Bosanquet, B. (1892) [1904]. A history of aesthetic. New York: The Macmillan Company. Cassirer, E. (1942) [1961]. The logic of the humanities. New Heaven: Yale University Press. Cassirer, E. (1944). An Essay on Man: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture. USA: Yale University Press. Conant, R. C., & Ashy, W. R. (1970). Every good regulator of a system must be a model of that system. International Journal of Systems Science, 1(2), 89–97. Croce, B. (1902) [1965]. Aesthetic as science of expression and general linguistic. New York: The Noonday Press. Dilthey, W. (1883) [1989]. Introduction to the human sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dilthey, W. (1910) [1976]. W. Dilthey selected writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dworkin, R. (1986). Law’s empire. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Epicurus (300 BC). (2014). The essential Epicurus. London: The Big Nest. Filmer, R. (1642, 1680) [1949] Patriarcha and Other Political Works. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hare, R. M. (1952). The Language of Morals. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hart, H.  L. A. (1958). Positivism and the separation of law and morals. Harvard Law Review, 71(4), 593–629. Hartmann, E. (1886). Aesthetik. Leipzig: Verlag von W. Friedrich. Hartmann, N. (1926) [1932]. Ethics. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Hartmann, N. (1933) [2007]. El problema del ser espiritual. Investigaciones para la fundamentación de la filosofía de la historia y de las ciencias del espíritu. Buenos Aires: Leviatán. Hartmann, N. (1940) [1959]. Ontologia III. La Fábrica del Mundo Real. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Hartmann, N. (1949) [1961]. Introducción a la filosofía. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Hartmann, N. (1953) [1977]. Estética. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Hegel, G. W. F. (1818–1829) [1886]. The introduction to Hegel’s philosophy of fine art. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.



Hobbes, T. (1642) [1949]. The cive or the citizen. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Hobbes, T. (1651) [1909]. The leviathan. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hume, D. (1739) [2000]. A treatise of human nature. New York: Oxford University Press. Husserl, E. (1900) [2001]. Logical Investigation. London: Routledge. Jevons, W. S. (1862). A General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy. Report of the BAAS. Jevons, W. S. (1871). The theory of political economy. London and New York: Macmillan and Co.. Kagan, J. (2009). The three cultures: Natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities in the 21st century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kant, E. (1781/1787) [1901]. Critique of pure reason. New York: P.F. Collier and Son. Kant, E. (1785) [2002]. Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Kant, E. (1788) [1889]. Critique of practical reason. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Kant, E. (1790) [1914]. The critique of judgement. London: Macmillan and Co. Kelsen, H. (1934) [2002]. Introduction to the problems of legal theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Kelsen, H. (1941). The pure theory of law and analytical jurisprudence. Harvard Law Review, 55(1), 44–70. Keynes, J.M. (1936). The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. Kohler, J. (1909) [1921]. The philosophy of law. New York: The Macmillan Company. Koller, J. (1799). Entwurf zur Geschichte und Literatur der Aesthetik. Regensburg: Montag und Weißische Buchhandlung. MacIntyre, A. (1966) [1998]. A short history of ethics: A history of moral philosophy from the Homeric age to the twentieth century. London: Routledge. Markby, W. (1889). Elements of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Marx, K. (1867) [1906]. Capital: A critique of political economy. New York: The Modern Library. Mayr, E. (1982). The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution and diversity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Menger, C. (1871) [2007]. Principles of Economics. Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute. Mill, J.  S. (1843) [1882]. A system of logic, ratiocinative and inductive. New  York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. Mill, J. S. (1848) [1884]. Principles of political economy. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Mill, J. S. (1859). On liberty. London: John W. Parker and Son. Moore, G.E. (1903). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nietzsche, F. (1886) [1917]. Beyond good and evil. New York: The Modern Library Publishers. Plato (348 BC). (1892). The dialogues of Plato. London: Oxford University Press. Plato (367 BC). (1971). Republic. London: Heron Books. Pound, R. (1934). Law and the science of law in recent theories. Yale Law Journal, 43(4), 525–536. Ricardo, D. (1817) [1821]. On the principles of political economy and taxation. London: John Murray. Samuelson, P.A. (1947). Foundations of Economic Analysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Scheler, M. (1913/1916) [1973]. Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values. A new attempt towards the foundation of an ethical personalism. Evaston: Northwestern University Press. Scheler, M. (1914) [1987]. Exemplars of persons and leaders. In M. S. Frings, Person and self-­ value: Three essays. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhojf Publishers. Scheler, M. (2008). The constitution of the human being. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. Schelling, F. (1800) [1987]. El sistema del idealismo trascendental. In F. W. J. Schelling, Antología. Barcelona: Ediciones Península. Schumpeter, J. A. (1954) [2006]. History of economic analysis. Florence: Taylor & Francis. Sidgwick, H. (1886) [1906]. Outlines of the history of ethics for English readers. London: Macmillan and Co. Smith, A. (1759) [1982]. The theory of moral sentiments. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Smith, A. (1776) [1937]. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. New York: The Modern Library.


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Smith, R. (1997). The Norton history of the human sciences. London and New York: W. W. Norton. Snow, C. P. (1959, 1963) [1998]. The two cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stammler, R. (1925). The theory of justice. New York: The Macmillan Company. Stevenson, C. L. (1944). Ethics and Language. New Haven: Yale University Press. Stingler, G.  J. (1941) [1949]. Production and distribution theories: The formative period. New York: The Macmillan Company. Walras, L. (1874) [2014]. Elements of theoretical economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Warnock, M. (1968). Ethics Since 1900. London: Oxford Univ Press. Warnock, G. J. (1971). The Object of Morality. London: Methuen. Whewell, W. (1837). History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Present Times. London: J.W. Parker. Zimmermann, R. (1858). Geschichte der Ästhetik als philosophische Wissenschaft. Vienna: Braumüller.

Chapter 7

The Fundamental Problem of Utopics

If we want to do justice to the subtitle of this book we cannot leave the question of the unification of human science unanswered arguing that we cannot find a fundamental question whose answer would bring together the different spheres of knowledge into one single domain of science, the science of utopic systems. Theoretically speaking, it seems a logical impossibility imposed by the domain of utopics itself, but does the fundamental question bringing forth the unification of human science need a theoretical question? Is this the only logical possibility left open to our thinking imagination? I believe not. In fact, this chapter will show that there is a fundamental problem that goes beyond any of the fundamental questions of human science, the fundamental problem of utopics. But before we discover what unifies our new domain of science, we need to revisit the different spheres of knowledge within human science to understand each of its subject matters further. Economics is the domain of economic goods and its subject matter is human plenty. In particular, economics aims to discover the laws that apply to an economically constituted human world in which the requirements for and available quantities of goods are not equal. Of course, Menger’s theory of economic value is only the foundation of economics as a human science which means that with that principle we have not discovered all the laws of economics. Instead, that theory has established the sphere of human plenty as an autonomous sphere of knowledge and has grounded economic research. It is likely that, though the laws of economics apply throughout to the human world, we will not always discover all of them in every particular human system we investigate in the same way as the theory of economic value always applies to every economizing human system. But what is sure is that the discovery of new economic laws will never contradict the principle of economics. If so, it will not be the universal principle we thought it was, and, thus, we will have to discover a more general theory of economic value that is not contradicted by new findings. In fact, this has already happened in other domains of science such as physics in which Newton’s (1687) law of universal gravitation was improved by Einstein’s (1915, 1916) theory of general relativity. Of course, in this © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_7



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case we are not talking about the principle of physical science as such given that at the atomic level, the gravitation force has the weakest influence in comparison with other physical laws such as electromagnetism. If we want to find the equivalent of a universal principle, maybe Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution is a better example given that it applies to every level of the biological world. That principle avoids the logical contradictions within that domain of science. In the case of ethics, we enter the domain of moral values and its subject matter is human goodness. In particular, ethics aims to discover the laws that apply to an ethically constituted human world in which human systems pursue ends that realize a plurality of values. Again, Hartmann’s theory of moral values is the principle, and the discovery of other moral values, in addition to friendship, solidarity, the love for the nearest and for the remotest, is not excluded. The only restriction is that, if the plurality of values have the same value, there cannot be higher and lower values; otherwise it is likely that the supreme value will be a moral imperative rather than a moral value related to human love. Likewise, those laws that explain how an ethically constituted human world works are not the same in every human system, but what does apply universally is that they all pursue ends that realize moral values even if they are different. Of course, human systems can also pursue ends that realize moral disvalues in which case the resulting human world will be far from being ethically constituted because value understanding is related to love-hate. This means that ethics cannot overlook the dark side of our emotional life because every moral value is linked to a moral disvalue, that is, there is not human goodness without human badness. So rather than avoiding investigating what we do not like about human systems as Plato did in the Republic, we have to understand what contributes to human hate. Then we have jurisprudence or the sphere of law which studies the domain of legal norms and whose subject matter is human justice. In particular, jurisprudence aims to discover the laws that apply to a legally constituted human world in which human systems rule out certain behaviours by making them illegal and subject to punishment. Within the sphere of law, however, there are no human systems above the law, not even the states who are also subjected to the laws they have accepted by signing international treaties regulating their behaviour. In addition, unlike the domain of moral values, in the sphere of law, there is a hierarchy of legal norms which always presupposes a hypothetical basic norm even if it is not codified as a constitution, the highest law. Given that what legal science studies result from creating and applying laws, these functions also belong to the subject matter of jurisprudence, human justice. Again, given the difference between centralized and decentralized legal systems, it is likely that we discover that some laws do not apply to legal systems without law-enforcing bodies. However, Kelsen’s theory of legal norms, as a universal principle, will always apply to every legally constituted human system regardless of whether some functions of the legal order are centralized or not. In addition, given that legal norms are a human-made causality regulating the behaviour of human systems, it goes without saying that the behaviour of different entangled human systems will be regulated by different legal norms realized by different utopic systems that did not accept the prevailing legal order. And, yet, given

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that realized legal norms coincide somehow with the sphere of duty, it is more than likely that there will be a growing coincidence between different legal orders. Finally, aesthetics completes the domain of human science with the domain of aesthetical appearances and with its fundamental question, human beauty. In particular, aesthetics aims to discover the laws that apply to an aesthetically constituted human world in which human systems create and enjoy aesthetic visions. The principle here is Hartmann’s theory of aesthetical appearances found in every work of art in which a foreground, the aesthetic idea, is seen in the background, the artistic creation. The fact that not every human system can see and enjoy the aesthetic vision behind a work of art does not question its universal character given that what appears to those that can appreciate its beauty is the same for all of them. This also means that what is beautiful is not something agreed among critics of art who decide the aesthetical value of a work of art but determined by the aesthetic vision itself which can be appreciated by artists and non-artists. Hence, our “judgement of taste” is not shaped by what the critics of art say about a work of art but results from our immediate enjoyment of its beauty. Furthermore, in the sphere of art, there are no hierarchy of arts and no limit to the possible works of art in which the artist can make an aesthetic vision appear. And since not all human systems enjoy the same works of art, there is no system of the arts that can claim universality, not even the traditional fine arts. A system of unlimited possibilities is logically impossible. After specifying the subject matter of the different human sciences, it becomes clear that they are focused on the different fundamental questions whose answers explain the laws that apply to an economically, ethically, legally, and aesthetically constituted human world. So we could say that the subject matter of utopics is the discovery of the laws that apply throughout the human world. However, none of the fundamental questions informing the domain of human science is a why-question, the characteristic form in which the fundamental questions in the domain of science are formulated. Indeed, human plenty, human goodness, human justice, and human beauty are fundamental questions that do not have a why-question form because they are fundamental problems in the human world. Maybe one logical possibility could be to search for a higher-level question to which those lower-level questions could be reduced to, some kind of supreme question. However, this would be logically impossible because each of the spheres of knowledge in human science is an autonomous domain which cannot be reduced to a supreme domain that mixes at a higher level what our founding fathers had separated. Another logical possibility could be to search for a supreme question that subsumed the other lower-level questions in which case it would mean that there is only one fundamental question because the others would be, by definition, non-fundamental questions. But can we truly say that there is something more fundamental than the fundamental problems of the human world? On the contrary, they are all equally fundamental questions, and none is more fundamental than the others, and, thus, a supreme question in human science is logically impossible. If none of those particular problems can be subordinated to a more general problem, it can only mean that justice cannot be the overarching question as Plato held in the Republic, but neither is goodness as Augustine seems to suggest in


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The City of God. Furthermore, plenty cannot be degraded to the lower natural needs of the body as opposed to the higher spiritual needs of the soul. And art is not a useless luxury but something that constitutes the human world fundamentally because it is impossible to find an ancient civilization even with a subsistence economy without some type of art. So the only conclusion we can draw from what has been said is that there is no fundamental question in utopics since all four subject matters are equally fundamental to the human world. But can we conclude from this that the unification of human science is logically impossible? Absolutely not! To find a way forward, we have to remember that human science is the science of utopic systems and that, unlike the other domains of science in which we discover possible ideas, that is, possible hypotheses, that explain how the physical, biological, and cybernetic world work, utopic systems realize possible ideas that constitute the human world. Therefore, in addition to discovering the scientific laws that apply throughout the human world, utopics systems realize possible ideas that change the constitution of the human world. If so, even if they cannot change the laws of economics, ethics, jurisprudence, and aesthetic, as self-determined systems, they can decide how they solve the fundamental problems of plenty, goodness, justice, and beauty in the human world. Of course, the possible options to address these fundamental problems are not always the same for every entangled human system, and, hence, this is the fundamental problem that self-determined systems have to solve for themselves. This reflection is taking our thinking imagination into a fruitful logical direction. If the form of the fundamental question in the domain of science is always a why-question whose answer has unified different domains of science, we have already found the fundamental problem that utopic systems will have to ask and answer themselves: Why accept the actual order as it is rather than to bring into existence another possible order that changes the human world?

This is the fundamental problem of utopics we were searching for making logically possible the unification of human science, a why problem that demands action by utopic systems to change the prevalent human world. Indeed, we have discovered a fundamental problem that requires the utopic activity of human systems to change the unacceptable constitution of the real human world. And there could not be a why problem that did more justice to the self-determined essence of utopic systems looking into the future as something possible because they are not satisfied with the actual state of things in the human world. Furthermore, this is a single why problem because the different types of realized ideas cannot be distinguished as different parts of the human world, such as the economy, the prevailing morality, the legal system, or the arts, because they are all entangled together in the constitution of the human world. And this also means that utopic systems have to work together to address all four fundamental problems because changing one single aspect to the exclusion of the others will not be enough to change the constitution of the human world. The implication is clear: we can only advance in one aspect in as much as we advance in the others, and the decline in one aspect is a decline in all the others. In



short, the fundamental problem of utopics implies the four fundamental problems in the human world. At last, the unification of human science is logically possible! We could decide to end our book here with the last discovery of our scientific inquiry. However, the philosophical inquiry we undertook together in Chap. 4, which resulted in the discovery of a new world-hypothesis to ground human science, is not yet completed given that there is still a philosophical question that needs to be answered, the last fundamental question of philosophy: how is the foundation of science possible? Furthermore, the answer to this question is all the more relevant to future scientists, from the physical to the human sciences, than to today’s “philosophers” who have given up working in the domain of world-hypothesis. It is about time that future scientists and philosophers work together for the advancement of human knowledge. Doing philosophy again also means that tomorrow’s philosophers cannot work alone anymore.

References Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species. London: John Murray. Einstein, A. (1915). The field equations of gravitation. Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sitzungsberichte 1915 (part 2), pp. 844–847. Einstein, A. (1916). The foundation of the general theory of relativity. Annalen der Physik, 354(7), 769–822. Newton, I. (1687). Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. S.  Pepys, Reg. Soc. Praeses. London: William Dawson & Sons.

Chapter 8

The Unification of Knowledge

As we remember, the last fundamental question of philosophy signalled a reorientation in the history of Western philosophy, but even though it was formulated early in Husserl’s Logical Investigations (1900) as “the conditions of the possibility of science in general”, it was only answered later in his Ideas II (1925, 1952), namely, all science is founded on “social subjectivity”. All intentional objects, the objective meanings constituting the “naturalist” and “humanist sciences”, are grounded on the spiritual world. Eventually, those intentional objects would take a life of their own constituting the cultural world as a symbolic universe. This logical path came to a dead end when anthropology became separated from cosmology, the symbolic animal from the rest of the universe. However, this is no longer our fate because we have demonstrated that we can do philosophy again from without the Western tradition by discovering a new world-hypothesis as a result of answering the fundamental questions of philosophy anew using the hypothetico-inductive method. So now we have to continue our philosophical inquiry with the last fundamental question that starts with a pure fact we assume as being the case, namely, that science is grounded somehow. If so, how is the foundation of science possible? We already know the answer because it has been implicit in the main goal of this book, namely, to demonstrate that science in general is grounded on a world-hypothesis. Therefore, now that we already know the answer to the last fundamental question, all that remains to be done is to work out the implications of this philosophical discovery for human knowledge. We could start by explaining some mysterious events in the history of science. If we go back to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, we realize that it coincides with a series of scientific discoveries from Galileo’s principle of inertia to Newton’s laws of motion that were all grounded on a new world-hypothesis. Indeed, Descartes (1637, 1641) had provided the philosophical foundation making logically possible the first two syntheses in the domain of science, first the Newtonian (1687) and later the Maxwellian (1865) syntheses. The domain of physical science was soon established because there was a new world-hypothesis shaping the thinking © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4_8



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imaginations of physicists leading to new scientific discoveries. However, in the case of the domain of biological science, the evolutionary synthesis happened nearly 90  years after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and Mendel’s Experiments on Plant Hybridization (1866). At first, this seems a mysterious event: why did not the evolutionary synthesis in the domain of biology happen earlier? The difference in the advancement of these two domains of science can only mean that, unlike physical science, biological science lacked a world-hypothesis making its unification logically possible. Indeed, it was only with the rise of the next world-hypothesis that it became a logical possibility. Even without knowing, Husserl-Heidegger (1927) working together had started to shape the thinking imagination of biologists in the 1930s. Ironically, 1927 was also the year of the famous Solvay Conference (Annex I) which brought forth the foundational crisis of physics with the establishment of quantum mechanics, another mysterious event. The new physics could not be grounded on the modern world-hypothesis anymore which resulted both in an interpretational crisis and in the schism between microphysics and macrophysics. The physical thought running from Galileo to Einstein could not be applied to the quantum world without resulting in logical contradictions. This can only mean that logical possibility in science is determined by world-hypothesis and that the logical incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity will only disappear when the whole of physics is grounded on another world-­ hypothesis. Further evidence of a lack of a world-hypothesis to ground science in general is the current state of the domains of neo-cybernetics and utopics which are also waiting for their own unifications despite having made the scientific discoveries nearly 70 years ago! Is this another mystery or the confirmation that all unifications in the domain of science depend on world-hypothesis? Today, biological science is the only domain of science grounded on a world-hypothesis that made the evolutionary synthesis possible by introducing a new concept of time. Ironically, the fate of this last world-hypothesis has been the separation of anthropology from the biological world by arguing that human systems live in a symbolic universe liberating them from the real world. Unfortunately, by saying goodbye to cosmology, Western philosophy has also said goodbye to its genuine vocation. Given the current state of science, the last fundamental question of philosophy becomes especially relevant today because this is the first time in the history of Western thought that science is ahead of philosophy. Whereas science has made progress in discovering the laws that explain how physical, biological, cybernetic, and utopic systems work, philosophy has given up on doing something what had unleashed the scientific imagination in the modern age. At that time, philosophy was ahead of science. Indeed, if scientists could see further, it was because they were standing on the shoulders of giants, the builders of the spatial-temporal cosmology originating in Descartes. Likewise, Husserl-Heidegger were also ahead of science when they worked out together the temporal cosmology. But those days are gone. What we have now is another situation. Science has been making scientific progress in physiology, psychology, ethology, and neo-cybernetics since the late nineteenth century to the early 1950s without leading up to a new unification. The same has happened during the same period in the fields of human sciences as we

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have seen from the history of the birth of the domain of utopics. The last unification of science, the evolutionary synthesis, is 80  years old! Philosophy has no other option as it cannot go ahead nor stay behind but only go together with science in the advancement of human knowledge. In fact, in the last fundamental question of philosophy is where both fundamental forms of knowledge come together. As we remember from the previous question, human knowledge is made possible because of the coincidence of possible ideas and actual facts in which philosophy goes from actuality to possibility and science from possibility to actuality in discovering new knowledge. Whereas philosophy discovers a possible hypothesis inferring inductively from pure actual facts, science discovers a possible hypothesis that can be tested by inferring deductively from it actual empirical facts that we should observe. But once philosophy discovers a world-hypothesis and science different scientific theories, how do the different domains of knowledge come together? Well, we have seen that the different disciplines within each domain of science assume the same spatial and temporal dualities constituting the types of system that scientists are investigating. That same “anatomic” constitution is what makes possible their unification within a given domain of science. This is exactly what happened in physics, biology, neo-­ cybernetics, and utopics when the discoveries made by scientists assumed the “anatomic” constitution of the physical, biological, cybernetic, and utopic worlds. Indeed, all the theories discovered within each domain of science were assumed the same spatial and temporal dualities intrinsic to each type of system. In this sense, we can say that scientific theories are grounded on a world-hypothesis in as much as the answer to the second fundamental question of philosophy discovers the “anatomy” of the universe and, hence, the possible domains of science. However, the answer to the question of how is the foundation of science possible is not that simple because the structure of the universe is heterogeneously constituted which means that we have to explain how all the domain of science can be grounded together on the same world-hypothesis. The clue to this enigma was provided by our discussion of the fundamental problem of utopics. As we remember, in understanding the constitution of the human world, we have to distinguish between the laws that explain how utopic systems work and the realized ideas constituting the human world itself. Well, in the second case, we have possible ideas that coincide with actual facts, and this is exactly what we see in the other domains of science when new knowledge is discovered. In other worlds, the realization of ideas follows the same direction of the logic of discovery in science, from possibility to actuality. In addition, we can say that the possible ideas that are discovered by all the sciences, that is, those that coincide with actual facts, are the ideas that constitute the universe in the same way as the realized ideas by utopic systems constitute the human world. In this sense, we can claim that domains of science are constituted by the possible ideas that constitute the actual world. If this is the case, we would have different types of ideas constituting the domain of science each corresponding to the different domains of science. This is similar to what we discovered in the human world, the different types of realized ideas making possible the different human sciences. Furthermore, regarding the fundamental problem of utopics, we


8  The Unification of Knowledge

also found out that we cannot identify the different types of realized ideas with different parts of the human world because they are all entangled in its constitution to such a point that their progress or decline goes together. And this is exactly what happens with the all possible ideas that constitute all the domains of science. We cannot isolate the physical, biological, cybernetic, and utopic types of possible ideas as being different parts that we can distinguish in the human world because they are all entangled in the constitution of the universe. Therefore, we cannot think of the new world-hypothesis grounding science in general as a hierarchy of different types of possible ideas because they are all equally fundamental in the constitution of everything that exists. If so, the implication is clear, human knowledge is not a hierarchy of sciences given that all the domains of science, from the physical to human sciences, are equally fundamental to the constitution of the universe. This is what we mean when we say that science in general is grounded on one single world-hypothesis. In addition, grounding science in general implies that a world-hypothesis grounds the progress of science. First, it grounds the thinking imagination of scientists enabling the development of science. It is when scientific thought is grounded on a world-hypothesis that scientific progress is logically possible. A vivid example is found in the work of Ashby whom early in his investigation made “axiomatic” the spatial and temporal dualities constituting the cybernetic world. That event predated his original insight into the foundational idea of stable equilibrium which became the seed for a theory of adaptive behaviour that went through different stages of development until he discovered the mechanism that explains why organisms reach a stable equilibrium with their environment. That development leading to a general theory of cybernetic systems would have been logically impossible without previously assuming the intrinsic structure of the cybernetic world. Second, a world-­ hypothesis also grounds the consolidation of science. In this case, the neo-Darwinian consensus of 1947 (Appendix II) that resulted in the unification of biology illustrates this point well. Indeed, the evolutionary synthesis happened nearly 80 years after Darwin’s (1859) discovery of the general theory of living systems because the consolidation of biological science was only logically possible after the current world-hypothesis had been born. In this sense, we can say that the consolidation of neo-cybernetics and of utopics as separate domains of science is still waiting the birth of new world-hypothesis I am proposing in this book. Consolidation is a very important process for the progress of science given that science could go astray after a major discovery has been made if the corresponding world-hypothesis making it possible is missing. This happens when the thinking imagination of the scientist making the discovery falls prey to an ill-suited world-hypothesis to ground its domain of science. Some examples can be found in the history of neo-cybernetics and of utopics. Ashby, for instance, made his great discovery just after the publication of his first major work, Design for a Brain (1952), but it never made it to his second book, An Introduction to Cybernetics (1956). Instead, it would remain buried in his journal (1928–1972) until it was finally released in 2008. Another example is Hartmann’s theory of moral values which seems to have been forgotten by him after writing the second part of The Problem of Spiritual Being (1933), and we



have also seen how his theory of aesthetic appearances was conceived as being “spiritual contents”, that is, symbolic creations, until the same year of his death. In addition, we can also compare the first edition of Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law (1934) with his rewritten second edition published in 1960 to understand what I mean by saying that science can go astray after a discovery when a world-­hypothesis is wanting. Finally, last fundamental question of philosophy is also pointing beyond itself to the unification between the domain of science and the domain of philosophy, that is, the unification of the two fundamental forms of knowledge. As we mentioned in the introduction, this book aimed to demonstrate the relationship between the primordial question of philosophy and the fundamental problem of utopics because science, as we have shown, is not independent from philosophy. In fact, the fundamental duality that suggested itself at the beginning of our philosophical inquiry is the same one we have found at the end of our scientific inquiry because both the universe and the utopic world are intrinsically constituted by the same actual-possible duality. In particular, this suggests once more that “cosmology” is not detached from “anthropology”. Furthermore, if there is a connection between the first answer to the primordial question of philosophy and the last answer to the fundamental question of human science, this can only mean that the unification of knowledge is logically possible. However, having found the link between the first and the last possible idea in the body of knowledge does not mean to have discovered the all the possible ideas constituting the whole domain of philosophy and of all the domains of science. On the contrary, this is only the beginning of the future unification of human knowledge which depends on the working together of the present and future scientists and philosophers given that we have only just started discovering the domains of science and of philosophy. The rest of the journey, however, cannot be travelled alone neither by philosophers nor scientists because the unification of knowledge results from the working together of two different logics of discovery: simultaneity of actuality-­possibility (philosophy) and possibility-actuality (science). From now on, the further advancement of knowledge will depend on philosophers and scientists doing different things but working for one single thing: truth.

References Ashby, W. R. (1952) [1954]. Design for a brain. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Ashby, W. R. (1956) [1957]. An introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman & Hall. Ashby, W. R. (2008). Journal (1928–1972), The W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive, 2008. http://www. rossashby.info/journal. Accessed 19 May 2020. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species. London: John Murray. Descartes, R. (1637) [1913]. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and of seeking truth in the sciences. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. Descartes, R. (1641) [1912]. Meditations on first philosophy. London: J.M. Dent & Sons. Hartmann, N. (1933). El Problema del Ser Espiritual: Investigaciones para la fundamentación de la filosofía de la historia y de las ciencias del espíritu. Buenos Aires: Leviatán.


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Heidegger, M. (1927) [2001]. Being and time. Oxford: Blackwell. Husserl, E. (1900) [2001]. Logical investigations. London: Routledge. Husserl, E. (1925, 1952) [1989]. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy: Studies in the phenomenology of constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Kelsen, H. (1934) [2002]. Introduction to the Problems of Legal Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Maxwell, J. C. (1865). A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 155, 459–512. Mendel, G. (1866). Experiments in plant hybridization. Abhandlungen, pp. 3–47. Newton, I. (1687). Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. S.  Pepys, Reg. Soc. Praeses. London: William Dawson & Sons.


We have to bring this book to closure. From the beginning, its aim was the unification of human science as a new domain of science, but its investigation has proven that we are also on the way to the future unification of human knowledge if philosophy and science work together doing different things. For that to happen, I started doing philosophy again from without Western philosophy because its way of thinking was limiting the progress of science. However, thinking differently from other entangled systems sharing a common spatial and temporal ancestry also signals the birth of a new civilization unleashing the full potential of our thinking imagination for what that really matters, namely, a utopic world acceptable for every entangled human system. Indeed, we can change our human world by working together with other utopic systems to realize something possible in terms of the economic goods, moral values, legal norms, and aesthetic appearances that we find necessary in the future constitution of our world. And a new utopic civilization requires a new world-hypothesis in order for its thinking imagination to see further into our self-determined universe for the advancement of knowledge but also to look into the future to see a different possible world for the advancement of humanity. Historically speaking, the human civilization is facing a global crisis with the rise of dystopic systems working together to destroy what constitutes the human world, and without a new world-hypothesis, we will be blind to what is actually disappearing: realized ideas. Hopefully, this book will cast light on what utopic systems are working for: PLENTY, GOODNESS, JUSTICE, and BEAUTY. Lastly, in the last chapter, I said that philosophers and scientists are working for TRUTH and now that utopic systems are working for something different as if what is important for the advancement of knowledge and of humanity were logically incompatible things. Furthermore, I also said that what constitutes the human world are the possible ideas realized by utopic systems in addition to the possible ideas (hypothesis) discovered by scientists, just like the laws that explain how the physical, biological, and cybernetic worlds work. Indeed, though we cannot change the © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4




laws that apply to the human world, utopic systems can change that recurring world by realizing different possible ideas. However, once those possible ideas have been accepted by other entangled systems, utopic systems will have realized another recurring world in which the same laws apply.

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

1 Introduction This work addresses the biggest problem that physics as a whole has suffered since the birth of modern science in the seventeen century, namely, “the schism in physics”, which was born out of the famous Solvay 1927 Conference in Brussels. By “the schism in physics”, I mean both the interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics and the logical incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity that resulted. The reason for this crisis is that, unlike classical physics, the birth of quantum mechanics coincided with the collapse of the modern cosmology founding physics until that moment. So the interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics is actually the result of the foundational crisis of physics with the loss a worldhypothesis without anything equivalent to replace it. Instead, what they chose to fill the void was a mathematical formalism to describe quantum phenomena, namely, an abstract probabilistic wave in abstract multidimensional space, which could do without causal space-time, that is, without the modern cosmology grounding physics. In spite of the emerging consensus since Solvay 1927, not everyone was satisfied with that replacement because it meant accepting something against general relativity and all physical phenomena known to Einstein. Thus, the present work brings to light a different story regarding Einstein’s doubts about quantum mechanics at the Solvay 1927 Conference where he first expressed publicly his suspicion towards the new theory. Indeed, I claim that his attitude cannot be explained as an unconditional faith in causal determinism (“God does not play dice”) or the denial of non-locality (“spooky action at a distance”) given that his discussions, first with Bohr (1927–1935) and then with Born (1947–1948), prove something else. Einstein’s real issue with quantum mechanics was the problem of non-contiguity because it was logically impossible within the modern cosmology for bodies not to coexist next to each other in different spaces. This long struggle that lasted over two decades © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4



Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

demonstrates how a cosmology determines what scientists can imagine as being logically possible or impossible and, thus, what they can see or cannot see. Up until now, the usual approach to solve the interpretational crisis in quantum mechanics has been to find the answers in the quantum formalism itself, but this assumes that the world we experience is relative to a scientific conceptual framework. On the contrary, I claim that the meaning of quantum mechanics is problematic because, unlike the modern age, scientists are now lacking a new world-hypothesis. So my proposal to dissolve the “schism in physics” is to accept that philosophy and science are different domains of knowledge and, thus, that the logical possibility of quantum mechanics depends on a missing world-hypothesis, which I believe to be the true domain of philosophy. This seems to be the only way to dissolve the foundational crisis of physics because no conceptual analysis will reveal the meaning of the quantum formalism and make logical sense of today’s mysterious quantum world.

2  Developing the Modern World-Hypothesis After an autobiographical sketch of the education he had received, the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596–1650) devoted the second chapter of his masterpiece, the Discourse on the Method (1637a), to explain what had moved him to write the book. Basically, despite having already made major discoveries in different sciences, such as geometry and optics, he wanted to share with the rest of the world the method he had used to conduct his reason. According to him, that method could be applied to any field of knowledge, but since order was a prescription of the method, he had to start with philosophy where the principles of science are founded. What resulted from that inquiry was the modern world-hypothesis on which the development of modern science from Newton (1687) to Einstein (1915, 1916) depended. That dependence what so strong that Einstein’s thinking imagination came to an end when it was used against a new theory, as was the case with the single-slit (1927) and the EPR (1935) thought experiments. To him, they suggested that quantum mechanics was not a complete theory. This was far from what Descartes could anticipate when sharing his method to conduct reason in the sciences. Well, his actual aim wasn’t “to teach the Method which each ought to follow for the right conduct of his reason” (1637a [1913]: 3). That was his stated aim, indeed, but he was actually aiming at something different. Descartes was witness to the birth of modern science. He himself had made some scientific discoveries in the fields of optics, meteorology, and geometry, which he published together as an appendix to the Discourse. However, the birth of modern science manifested a fact that until then had been hidden to earlier philosophers: that there is scientific knowledge. Nobody with “good sense” could deny it. Yet, that fact being the case had to be explained somehow and the answer could not come from science itself. Science produced scientific discoveries, obviously, but how were Descartes’s contributions in optics, meteorology, and geometry possible?

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics


The Discourse on Method (1637a) didn’t aim “solely to describe the way in which I have endeavored to conduct my own [reason]” (1637a [1913]: 3). No, the book’s real aim was to offer a possible hypothesis to account for a fact that was in need of explanation. Indeed, that masterpiece was an epoch-making book because it gave birth to a genuine philosophical question that would dominate the rest of the modern age: how is scientific knowledge possible? Furthermore, the answer to that question would bring into being the modern world-hypothesis. How did Descartes arrive at his hypothesis of how scientific knowledge is possible? Well, applying the first prescription of his method: “never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; [but only] what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt” (1637a [1913]: 19). So he started doubting about everything that could possibly be false until he could reach something undoubtable upon which he could construct his philosophical system. That meant doubting about his senses, his thoughts, and about everything that entered his mind, but not about himself, he could have doubt about everything else except for himself. Maybe everything was a dream, but it was him who was having that dream. That dream was only possible if there was someone having it. Thus, he had arrived at the first undoubtable truth of this philosophical inquiry: “I think, therefore I am”. I can doubt about every object entering my mind, but I have no possible doubt about myself, the thinking subject. “I thence concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist, has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing” (Ibid: 35–36). Descartes had not only discovered the first true principle on which to build a philosophical system, but more importantly, the dualism that would define the modern world-hypothesis from that very moment: the Subject-Object dualism. However, that would also open the door to two opposite epistemologies, idealism versus realism, depending on whether the objects to be perceived or known are dependent or independent of the perceiving or thinking subject. But what is important about this dualism is that it was the foundation stone of the modern world-hypothesis. Indeed, once that Subject-Object dualism was established, the world became something external to the subject, namely, the external world. We know that the nature of the subject is thought, but what was the nature of the world? Descartes answered that question in his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) where he conceived of the body as something extended in length, breadth, and depth. A body is something that has shape, occupies space, and is movable just like the object of geometry, “which I conceived to be a continuous body, or a space indefinitely extended in length, breadth, and height or depth, divisible into divers parts which admit of different figures and sizes, and of being moved or transposed in all manner of ways” (1637a [1913]:39). Bodies are divisible into movable parts. “I can enumerate in it many diverse parts, and attribute to each of these all sorts of sizes, figures, situations, and local motions; and, in fine, I can assign to each of this motions all degrees of duration” (1641 [1912]: 120). This remark is very important because Descartes discovery of analytic geometry made possible the mathematization of the world that Kepler


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

(1618) and Galileo (1623) had already dreamed of. “The book [of nature] is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it”, as Galileo put it. However, it is one thing to say that to understand the universe we need the language of mathematics in order to formulate the law of motion, for instance, and quite another to say that the world is a geometrical object, which is what Descartes meant. “It is necessary to admit that all which I clearly and distinctly conceive as in […] the object of speculative geometry, really exists external to me” (1641 [1912]: 134). Indeed, a body is an extended thing that exists outside the thinking subject. Yet, unlike the thinking subject who “has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing,” bodies occupy a space in the material world. In addition, this new world-hypothesis now allowed scientist to conceive of material bodies as made up of parts: corpuscles. The modern atomic theory of matter was in the making. In fact, Descartes himself proposed in a couple of treaties he attached to the Discourse not only a corpuscular theory of matter (Meteorology) but also of light (Optics)! As we know from the history of Western philosophy, it was Democritus (460–370 BC) who was the first to postulate the atomist hypothesis of the universe. However, Descartes was the first to question that the parts of matter were indivisible because extension is divisible to infinity. That is, the extended bodies are by definition divisible into parts. There cannot exist any atoms or parts of matter that are of their own nature indivisible. For however small we suppose these parts to be, yet because they are necessarily extended, we are always able in thought to divide any one of them into two or more smaller parts, and may accordingly admit their divisibility. (1644 [1912]: 209]

Finally, any one of those parts can only be moved by another part that exists next to it: “The nature of the body is such that none of its parts can be moved by another part a little removed from the other” (1641 [1912]: 139). In summary, the material world is a continuous space divisible into subspaces occupied by extended bodies which are divisible into further extended parts without limit and movable only by other bodies next to them. Yet, to round up the modern world-hypothesis of this French philosopher, we would still have to wait for three other German philosophers who worked it out even further, namely, Wolff (1679–1754), Baumgarten (1714–1762) and Kant (1724–1804). According to Descartes, extended bodies exist outside the subject, but these German philosophers will tell us more about the external world in which bodies are placed. “Everything is external to each other” since two bodies cannot occupy the same space simultaneously. That means that bodies coexist side by side, that is, next to each other in different spaces. However, that doesn’t mean every extended body will occupy that same space forever. No, bodies change space when they move, but for a body to change space, some other body needs to move, which means that there is an exchange of spaces between bodies. Moreover, parts of a body can also exchange space with other parts, in which case there would be an internal movement.

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics


Despite saying that there is an internal movement within the body, the parts continue to exist outside of each other inside a body. Just like bodies coexist next to each other occupying different spaces, parts also coexist next to each other occupying different subspaces. Let’s say more about this cosmology though. According to Wolff (1720), “The world is a series of changeable things that are next to each other and follow upon each other, but, in general, are connected to each other” (Ibid [2009]: 37). Up until now, we haven’t said much about how bodies are connected, just that everything is external to each other. But how is everything connected? Well, “both things that are next to each other and things that follow upon each other are grounded in each other” (Ibid.). This means that everything is reciprocally interacting; that is, everything is caused by something else and nothing is caused by itself. In other words, the self-movement of a body is impossible. Indeed, “no body moves itself, and accordingly it must have an external cause, if it is to be moved” (Ibid: 45). That is, a body does not change space by itself unless it is moved by another body next to it, in which case, one body will be the external cause of the other. In addition, the moving body which caused the other body to move also needs an external cause to be moved. In other words, every change of a body is caused by something else. The non-external change of bodies is impossible. However, “once a body has been put in motion, […] it must continue to move itself constantly in one direction, if nothing changes its bearing” (Ibid: 45). Thus, the noncontinuous change of a body is impossible if left to itself. We are witnessing a world-hypothesis that is becoming more deterministic as time goes on, everything is caused by something else, and nothing is caused by itself. The cause of why something moves is always found in the something else which, in turn, is moved by something else ad infinitum. This is a world in which everything is external to each other, that is, everything is spatially separate from everything else, but at the same time, everything is spatially connected to everything else. Hence, “a world admits of no islands” (Baumgarten 1739 [2014]: 167). This might sound a bit paradoxical at first, because how can a body be separate from and, at the same time, connected to other bodies? However, the reciprocal connection seems to dissolve this paradox. It is now time to complete this world-hypothesis with the help of Kant. For some time, Kant (1756) wasn’t totally convinced about this deterministic picture of the universe. All changes couldn’t come from without bodies, surely, but there must be some changes that come from within bodies. Maybe matter does not occupy space passively. In fact, Wolf had already said that matter had a resisting force that gives extension to bodies. However, following Leibniz, this force was conceived as the passive resistance of a body to changing space. On the contrary, Kant argued that matter had an inherent moving force that explains its spatial extension. Indeed, matter was not passively but actively repelling other bodies through a repulsive force that was responsible for the diffusion of bodies; that is, bodies expand in magnitude but equally contract in magnitude, for which he posited another force, the attractive force. Hence, the expansion and contraction of bodies are explained by this dual moving force inherent in matter: the repulsive-attractive force. Hence, the space occupied by a body is determined by this inherent moving force.


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

Unfortunately, his early theory of matter did not quite fit with the theory of change found in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787) and with his later theory of matter, proposed in the Metaphysical Foundation of Natural Science (1786). I had always seen this masterpiece, the Critique of Pure Reason, as a work on epistemology because the question that Kant was trying to answer was the same one Descartes aimed at in his Discourse (1637a), namely, how is scientific knowledge possible? However, as I have argued in the case of Descartes, the answer to that question resulted in a new world-hypothesis. However, that original world-hypothesis was going to be completed by Kant who thought further about the possibility of scientific knowledge. Unlike his predecessor, he was fully aware of the genuine philosophical question of the modern age which he formulated in his own terms at the beginning of the Critique of Pure Reason (1781a), “The proper problem of pure reason, then, is contained in the question: ‘How are synthetical judgements a priori possible?’” (1781/1787 [1901]: 55–56). Contrary to Descartes, Kant had denied that matter was divisible to infinity in his Physical Monadology (1756) though he would later change his mind in the Critique. If bodies occupy a continuous space divisible into subspaces, matter must necessarily be divisible too. But what he could not accept from Descartes was his realism claiming that extended objects exist independently of the thinking subject. In fact, holding to the same Cartesian Subject-Object dualism, he defended the fact that extended objects are dependent on a thinking subject, arguing for the so-called transcendent idealism. But what was Kant really aiming at? Well, he wanted to question the assumption that motion takes place in space. There was something essential missing in this world-hypothesis, namely, time: “all phenomena in general, that is, all objects of the senses, are in time, and stand necessarily in relations of time” (1781/1787 [1901]: 74). Change is not possible without time because motion is always about spatially connected phenomena in time. Hence, all moving bodies happen in time. Up until now, we had conceived all motion as the change of place occupied by bodies, but Kant now argued that “the conception of change, and with it, the conception of motion, as change of place, is possible only through and in the representation of time” (Ibid: 72). Thus, if we want to understand the motion of bodies, we need to integrate time in the world-hypothesis. Moreover, Kant could only introduce the time dimension by building on Descartes’ Subject-Object dualism. The internal and external senses are the two ways in which we, thinking subjects, perceive objects. On the one hand, “by means of the external sense (a property of the mind), we represent to ourselves objects as without us, and these all in space” (Ibid: 65). On the other, in virtue of the internal sense, we can perceive those same objects in relations of time. Indeed, For neither coexistence [simultaneity] nor succession would be perceived by us, if the representation of time did not exist as a foundation a priori. Without this presupposition we could not represent to ourselves that things exist together at one and the same time or at different times. (Ibid: 71)

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics


Furthermore, though we, subjects, perceive bodies as occupying space outside us, that is, bodies as being extended, time does not exist as a real property of objects. “We regard time as merely the subjective condition under which all our intuitions [perceptions] take place […] and in itself, independently of the mind or subject, is nothing” (Ibid: 73–74). Thus, Kant was not replacing Descartes’ realistic worldhypothesis with an idealistic one since the world they saw was still the same material world occupied by spatially connected bodies but now changing in time. This seems to be the right moment to turn to Kant’s theory of change. For that, we have to introduce the three modes of time by which we can understand any possible change in the material world: permanence, succession, and simultaneity. To do so, Kant would use his famous “analogies of experience” which referred to ways in which we combined the perception of objects with concepts of the thinking subject. “Experience is only possible through the representation of a necessary connection of perceptions” (Ibid: 186). Indeed, that necessary connection between objects didn’t come from perceptions per se but from three concepts that Kant had deduced from logical judgments: substance (categorical), causality (hypothetical), and community (disjunctive). The third concept, community, resulted from combining substance and causality. Well, change is basically the successive relation (causality) and the reciprocal interaction (community) between bodies (substance). Thus, these two temporal relations are the only possible changes of spatially connected bodies. However, since community is deduced from both causality and substance, strictly speaking, there is only one possible explanation of the change: causality. As regards the other two modes of time, the permanence of bodies is not change per se, and the simultaneity between coexisting bodies interacting reciprocally seems to be a spatial relation. So what is causality for Kant besides a temporal succession of phenomena in which one event follows necessarily from another, like a conclusion follows necessarily from the premises of a logical argument? According to him, causality is a universal law that applies to every change in the material world: “All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect” (Ibid: 196). Alternatively, “this principle might have been expressed as follows: ‘All alteration (succession) of phenomena is merely change’ (Ibid: 197). And ‘every change must have a cause’” (Ibid: 45). Besides a necessary relation between phenomena perceived by a thinking subject, causality is an explanation of change that says that the self-movement of a body is impossible, since “no body moves itself, and accordingly it must have an external cause”, to use Wolff’s proposition. However, this theory of change seems to go against Kant’s early theory of matter in which bodies have an inherent moving force, namely, the repulsive-attractive force. Let us finish this section with the Metaphysical Foundation of Natural Science (1786) to see how he tried to make them mutually compatible. In that work, Kant aimed to apply the a priori concepts found in any thinking subject to the empirical theory of matter because he claimed that “all determinations of the general concept of matter in general must be able to be brought under the four classes of categories, those of quantity, of quality, of relation, and finally of modality” (1786 [2004]: 11). This resulted in the division of the theory of matter into different sections:


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

phoronomy (the quality of matter), dynamics (quality of matter), mechanics (relation of matter), and phenomenology (modality of matter). First, following Descartes’s conception of matter as extension, “matter can also be considered as a point” and “the motion of a thing is the change of its outer relations to a given space”. The motion of bodies is always relative to a given system of coordinates. “Hence an absolute motion, that is, […] cannot be experienced at all, and thus is nothing for us (even if one wanted to grant that absolute space were something in itself)” (Ibid: 23). Second, “matter is movable in itself”, indeed, but doesn’t move by itself, as before. The active moving force intrinsic to matter is now cast as a passive resisting force. On the one hand, “attractive force is that moving force by which a matter […] resists the removal of other from it” (Ibid: 35). On the other, “repulsive force is that by which a matter […] resists the approach of others to it” (Ibid.). Third, since the self-movement of bodies is ruled out as impossible, “every change in matter has an external cause” (Ibid: 82). Again, non-external change of bodies is impossible. Finally, “all motion or rest can be relative only and never absolute, that is, that matter can be thought as moved or at rest solely in relation to matter, and never with respect to mere space without matter”. Well, Descartes had already said that matter is extended, matter fills all world-space, and, hence, there is no empty space devoid of matter. Indeed, world-space is the material world! So far, I have described the making of the modern world-hypothesis from Descartes’s inauguration to Kant’s completion in the search for an answer to a question that had not been asked by earlier philosophers because they had not witnessed the Scientific Revolution showing that there is scientific knowledge. But “how was scientific knowledge possible?” they thought to themselves. The answer they gave made logically possible the grounding of physics. It was as if thanks to the new world-hypothesis, scientists could imagine different thought experiments that would not have been possible in earlier times. The world-hypotheses could unleash the thinking imagination of those scientists enabling new possible conjectures that could be tested by actual observations. Now we can summarize the modern world-hypothesis shaping the thinking imagination of physicists until the birth of quantum mechanics in the mid-1920s. The material world is a continuous space divisible into subspaces occupied by extended bodies, coexisting next to each other in reciprocal interaction and moving “in time” in relation to a given space. And what did this world-hypothesis rule out as impossible? First, non-contiguity is impossible because bodies coexist next to each other in different subspaces but never in the same space. Second, the noncontinuous change of a body is impossible if left to itself. Third, the non-external causality of bodies is impossible. Thus, the self-movement of a body is impossible. Lastly, this world-hypothesis is not restricted to the corpuscular hypothesis alone because undulatory bodies are also extended objects. Thus, extended bodies have a part-whole structure which comes from assuming that space is a whole (continuous space) divisible into parts (discrete subspaces). It seems that we have discovered the essence of world-hypothesis. If it enables us to imagine something as possible, it means that it establishes what is logically possible to think as being the case. However, if that is the case, world-hypotheses have

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics


to be imaginable by definition. Furthermore, the impossibility of imagining phenomena within a world-hypothesis is a logical impossibility so imaginable is akin to thinkable. When Descartes and Kant answered the question of how scientific knowledge was possible, the explanations they gave were somehow imaginable thoughts. In short, the development of a world-hypothesis is the work of the thinking imagination. Finally, the productive thinking imagination of scientists comes to an end when the world-hypothesis that makes logically possible their thought experiments vanishes as the example of the most imaginative scientist in the history of science has taught us. Indeed, as we will see in the next section, Einstein could never accept quantum mechanics because non-contiguity was logically impossible within the modern world-hypothesis.

3  Searching for Sense in Quantum Physics Let us introduce this section with a long quotation from the great scientist who opened our eyes to quantum phenomena with the discovery of the quantum of action in 1900, Max Planck (1858–1947). What is the real meaning of these constants? Are they, in the last analysis, inventions of the inquiring mind of man, or do they possess a real meaning independent of human intelligence? The first of these two views is professed by the followers of Positivism, or at least by its most extreme partisans. Their theory is that physical science has no other foundation than the measurements on which its structure is erected, and that a proposition in physics makes any sense only in so far as it can be supported by measurements […] Therefore, up to quite recently, positivists of all hues have also put up the strongest resistance to the introduction of atomic hypotheses and thereby also to the acceptance of the above mentioned universal constants. This is quite understandable, for the existence of these constants is a palpable proof of the existence in nature of something real and independent of every human measurement. (1937 [1950]: 170–172)

Those positivists, of course, were the idealists or phenomenalists, such as Ernst Mach (1838–1916), who gave priority to the subjectivist side of the Subject-Object dualism, and the objectivist side is represented by the realists, such as Einstein, de Broglie, Schrödinger, and Planck himself, claiming that the objects to which the constants refer to are independent of the subject making the measurement. Hence, this is the same dualism defining the old world-hypothesis on which classical physics was founded. However, Planck claims that “in our days, scientific research fructified by the theory of relativity and the quantum theory, stands at the threshold of a higher stage of development, ready to mold a new world-picture for itself” (1949 [1950]: 97). According to him, “as the view of the physical world is perfected, it simultaneously recedes from the world of sense; and this process is tantamount to an approach to the world of reality” (1926 [1931]: 14–15). That is, with scientific discoveries like the Planck constant, “this physical world moved farther and farther away from the world of senses and lost its former anthropomorphic character […] Thus the


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physical world has become progressively more and more abstract” (Ibid: 14). What Planck calls the physical world-picture (Weltbild), however, seems to be at odds with what I mean by a world-hypothesis. Yet, moving away from the subjectivist world of senses (idealism) to the objectivist world of reality (realism) doesn’t really change the world-hypothesis, as Descartes and Kant have shown us because the realistic picture doesn’t replace the idealistic picture since both philosophers saw the same material world. Furthermore, as I argued at the end of the last chapter, a world-hypothesis is not something merely rational, like the unified field theory attempted by Einstein and Schrödinger, but primarily imaginable. But do we have a new world-hypothesis to ground quantum mechanics? I am afraid not. We can make sense of the classical world, but the quantum world seems logically impossible. As Penrose (2004) wrote, quantum mechanics is “so greatly removed from our ordinary classical pictures that we may choose simply to give up on quantum-level ‘pictures’ altogether [and] rely merely upon the quantum-mechanical mathematical formalism to obtain answers” (Ibid: 493). But is our only option to rely upon the contested interpretations of the mathematical formalism? Is it not, in fact, the interpretation issue in quantum mechanics the best evidence that physics has lost the modern cosmology on which is was founded? If so, when and where did that happen? It was at the famous Fifth International Solvay Conference held in Brussels on October 1927 where the leading physicists of the time (including 17 Nobel Prize winners) gathered to discuss “the conflict and the possible reconciliation between classical theories and the theory of quanta” (Bacciagaluppi and Valentini 2006: 10), the topic that had been proposed by Lorentz, the scientific organizer and chairman of the conference. Ironically, though the outcome of conference was the foundational crisis of physics, Solvay 1927 has passed into history as the moment in which the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics became the standard interpretation. “But in fact, at the end of 1927, a significant number of the main participants (in particular de Broglie, Einstein, and Schrödinger) remained unconvinced, and the deep differences of opinion were never really resolved” (Ibid: vii). Since then, the interpretation issue has only become more problematic because now there are many more interpretations of quantum mechanics which I will not dare to discuss because the solution rests elsewhere. Instead, I will focus on the reports presented and the discussions that took place at Solvay 1927 to justify my claim that it was there that the leading scientists lost the modern cosmology despite being the place that concentrated the greatest scientific talent that the scientific world had ever seen together. Moreover, it was also there where Einstein understood the impossible implication of quantum mechanics, namely, the problem of non-contiguity, triggering a debate with Bohr. As we will show later, this debate was far from a clash between the indeterminism of quantum physics and the determinism of classical physics. Instead, by analysing Einstein’s suspicious attitude towards quantum mechanics, I am hoping to prove what I said about world-hypotheses, namely, the logical impossibility of imagining something as being the case within a given world-hypothesis.

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3.1  Pre-Solvay 1927 Conference As this is not a history of quantum mechanics, but a history of the decline of the Western world-hypotheses leading up to the paradoxes in quantum mechanics, we can start by saying that Descartes had already paved the way in his optics (1637a) by claiming that light was made of corpuscles that travelled through a medium, the ether. This was consistent with his idea that there is no empty space without matter, and, hence, everything is filled with “matter”. That idea of the ether was taken up later by Huygens (1678, 1690) who proposed that light was made of continuous waves, and not discrete corpuscles. This was certainly compatible with Descartes’ idea of extension as a continuous magnitude. However, this theory of light was overshadowed by Newton’s (1704) corpuscular theory, which also retained the idea that light propagated through an “aethereal medium”, however. Moreover, the nineteenth century witnessed the second synthesis in physics when Maxwell (1865) united electricity and magnetism into a field theory showing that light was an electromagnetic wave. Thus, prior to Solvay 1927, we had two accepted theories, the corpuscular theory of matter, and the undulatory theory of light, which were both imaginable within Descartes’ world-hypothesis since matter as corpuscles and light as waves were still extended bodies occupying space. However, the first half of the twentieth century saw two unexpected scientific discoveries that contradicted the wave nature of light. The first was Einstein’s (1905) atomic hypothesis to explain the photoelectric effect suggesting that light was carried by discrete particles, photons. The second was an effect discovered by Compton (1923), which could also be explained according to the photon hypothesis. If light behaves both like a particle and like a wave, why not assume the particle-wave duality of matter? This was, in fact, the bold hypothesis proposed by de Broglie in his Ph.D. thesis presented in 1924, which was translated from French into German with a preface he concluded, 1 month before the Solvay 1927 conference, with the following sentence: NEWTON’s Dynamics and FRESNEL’s theory of waves have returned to combine into a grand synthesis of great intellectual beauty enabling us to fathom deeply the nature of quanta and open Physics to immense new horizons.

Was that legitimated scientific hope of a new synthesis in physics possible or would the particle-wave duality of matter lead to the “schism in physics?” No, as we will see in this chapter, this duality is still compatible with the modern world-hypothesis since particles (parts) can coexist in a wave (whole). However, this wasn’t the only possible theory of quanta. One year after de Broglie (1924) presented his Ph.D. thesis, Born, Heisenberg and Jordan (November 1925) provided the first formalization of quantum mechanics, matrix mechanics, and, at the beginning of the following year, Schrödinger’s (January 1926a) published the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics, the wave function or Schrödinger equation. Furthermore, that same year Schrödinger (March 1926b) suggested that his wave mechanics and matrix mechanics were equivalent theories, and Born (July 1926) proposed the statistical interpretation of the wave function, the probability wave. Finally, leading up to Solvay 1927, Heisenberg (March 1927) discovered the uncertainty principle and


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Bohr presented the complementary principle at the Como 1927 conference (September 1927). In short, the new conceptual framework for quantum mechanics was already appeared before the Solvay 1927 Conference.

3.2  The Solvay 1927 Conference The conference took place in Brussels at the premises of the International Solvay Institute from 24 to 29 October 1927 and was attended by 29 leading scientists, such as Lorentz (Chairman), Bohr, Born, Brillouin, Compton, de Broglie, Dirac, Einstein, Heisenberg, Langevin, Pauli, and Schrödinger, among others. Yet, according to the proceedings, only a few scientists presented reports, namely, Bragg, Compton, de Broglie, Born-Heisenberg, and Schrödinger. In fact, Einstein was also invited by Lorentz to present another one on quantum statistics; although he at first accepted the invitation, he finally withdrew his commitment with the following answer. After much reflection back and forth, I come to the conviction that I am not competent [to give] such a report in a way that corresponds to the state of things. The reason is that I have not been able to participate as intensively in the modern development of quantum theory […] because I do not approve of the purely statistical way of thinking on which the new theories are founded. (Quoted in Bacciagaluppi and Valentini 2006: 15)

The conference lasted all week, dividing the meeting into half-day sessions starting with Bragg’s report on Monday 24 October, morning, followed by a discussion after each report and finished on Friday 28 October, afternoon, with a general discussion. We will not go into all the reports and discussions that were recorded in the proceedings. Instead, we will only cover Compton’s report that questioned the wave nature of light and the three alternative theories of quantum phenomena presented at the conference together with the discussions that followed. Following the order of the sessions, we will start with the second report presented by Compton on the “disagreements between experiment and the electromagnetic theory of radiation”. As we mentioned earlier, both the Compton and the photoelectric effects were quantum phenomena that seemed to contradict the predictions of Maxwell’s undulatory theory of light. In particular, “the scattering of X-rays, and the recoil electrons, phenomena in which we find gradually increasing departures from the predictions of the classical wave theory as the frequency increases” (Bacciagaluppi and Valentini 2006: 330). Moreover, despite Compton was willing to give up on the idea of ether to explain light, he was not prepared to abandon electromagnetic waves. “Perhaps the corpuscle is related to the wave in somewhat the same manner that the molecule is related to matter in bulk: or there may be a guiding wave which directs the corpuscles which carry the energy” (Ibid: 330–331). However, this doubt shows how close he was to the modern worldhypothesis. The first option meant that photons can stand next to each interacting reciprocally inside a composite body, and the second, that the corpuscles could be a part of an extended wave moving in time. In either case, both the photon and the wave are conceived as extended bodies occupying space and moving in time.

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“Whether the waves serve to guide the photons, or whether there is some other relation between photons and waves is another and a difficult question” (Ibid: 354–355). This was the last sentence of his report. Regarding the discussion that followed, Lorentz argued that “the notion of electromagnetic field, with its waves and vibrations would bring us back, in Mr. Compton’s view to the notion of ether” (Ibid: 356). But Compton disagreed answering with the following: That something (E and H) propagates like a wave with velocity c seems evident. However, experiments of the kind we have just discussed show, if they are correct, that the energy of the bundle of X-rays propagates in the form of particles and not in the form of extended waves. So then, not even the electromagnetic ether appears to be satisfactory. (Ibid: 356–357)

In other words, that something that propagates is like a wave in the form of particles: the wave-particle duality. However, this seems to me a confused idea, since waves are by definition continuous and particles discrete, but that something which carries energy is both things simultaneously. Yet, Bohn offered a possible solution to the mystery of the quantum world. “One should completely reject the idea of the existence of photons and assume that the laws of conservation of energy and momentum are true only in a statistical way” (Ibid: 360). If the photon hypothesis is false, how do we explain the Compton and the photoelectric effects, which are anomalous according to the classical wave theory? To find a way out of this conundrum, Lorentz mentioned Schrödinger’s wave mechanics as a possible clue. But before we introduce this theory, let us turn to de Broglie’s report in keeping with the order of the sessions. De Broglie starts by outlining the main points of view on the dynamics of quantum systems. First, according to Schrödinger, quantum systems are continuous waves that don’t consist of discrete particles. “The material point would then not be really point like; for Mr. Schrödinger, the electron in the atom is in some sense ‘smeared out’ [‘fondu’], and one can no longer speak of its position or velocity” (Ibid: 379). If so, what de Broglie finds strange is that the Schrödinger-wave equation makes use of a wave (Ψ) in a multidimensional space (configuration space) representing all the possible quantum states of a system if there are no particles to occupy it. The geometrical space to represent the continuous wave is divisible into subspaces occupied by discrete particles, surely. “Furthermore, if the propagation of a wave in space has a clear physical meaning, it is not the same as the propagation of a wave in the abstract configuration space” (Ibid: 380). Thus, de Broglie was suggesting that Schrödinger’s abstract space was at odds with the real space in which real waves propagate. Next, Born “considers the wave Ψ as giving only a statistical representation of the phenomena” (Ibid: 381). Thus, the wave doesn’t have a physical meaning. Moreover, “Mr. Born seems even to abandon the idea of the determinism of individual physical phenomena” (Ibid.). So, what is left of the material world occupied by reciprocally interacting bodies moving in time in a given direction? “According to Mr. Born, the final form of the Ψ determines the probabilities that the collision


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

may produce this or that result” (Ibid: 382). But, surely, the outcome must be determined by something, and if that something is not the collision between individual particles itself, then what is it? De Broglie agreed that the wave function describes the state of quantum systems but disagreed that the state was determined by a probability wave, that is, by an abstract wave. So what was de Broglie’s proposal to explain the dynamics of quantum systems? The wave function Ψ was a real wave made of discrete particles occupying real space. According to him, we must include the trajectory of the individual particles in the calculation of the wave function. “It does not seem to us that there is any reason to renounce believing in the determinism of the individual physical phenomena” [Ibid: 383]. What was the novelty of this proposal then? Besides affirming that waves are made of particles and that we cannot understand wave propagation without the internal movement of particles, his wave theory offered a possible explanation of the particle-wave duality. “There exists a correspondence between the singular waves and the waves Ψ, such that the motion of the singularities is connected to the propagation of the waves Ψ” (Ibid: 390). The relationship between the corpuscles and the waves is not the usual reciprocal interaction between the particles since the waves act upon the particles, guiding them. This is still compatible with the modern world-hypothesis that allows the wave to guide the particles because the particles don’t move by themselves and, hence, they need an external cause to be moved. That external cause can be another particle but also a wave, and why not? Indeed, if the wave is external to the particles within it, it could be possible within the modern world-hypothesis. What it does rule out, however, is the reciprocal interaction between the one single particle and a wave, which can only take place between all the coexisting particles inside the wave and the wave outside them, meaning that the wave acts upon all the particles. Regarding the discussions that followed, the main criticism came from Pauli who argued that the mathematical formalism to introduce the pilot-wave theory, namely, the wave Ψ in configuration space, ruled out the possibility of describing the trajectory of particles in real space. Thus, the pilot-wave theory was impossible within that mathematical formalism. This question leads us naturally to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Our next speakers, Born and Heisenberg, started by saying that what differentiates classical from quantum physics is “the occurrence of discontinuities” (Ibid: 408). These discontinuities that we can observe through experiments are not individual systems such as electrons. No, it makes no sense to talk about an electron having an independent existence because those discontinuities that occur are quantum states that are relative to our measurements. That is, only after making an experiment does it make sense to talk about the states of an electron because quantum states are observable states. This was a radical move from the earlier physical theories because it was always assumed that events occurred independently from our observations in an external world. But with the new quantum mechanics, it is illegitimate to talk about quantum states as describing existing entities no matter whether they are dependent (idealism) or independent (realism) from the subject.

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Since quantum states are observable states, we only need “a precise analysis of what is ‘observable in principle’” (Ibid: 408). According to them, matrix theory is a self-sufficient theory that doesn’t depend on ontology. “The new conceptual scheme provides the anschaulich content of the new theory” (Ibid: 409). All we need is “that it is consistent in itself and that is allows one to predict unambiguously the results for all experiments conceivable in its domain” (Ibid.). Indeed, matrix theory merges the “world” of statistics with the “world” of the senses by calculating the possible states of a system by means of a probability distribution. Moreover, the statistical interpretation enables to reconcile the wave-particle duality of quantum phenomena because “waves are probability waves” (Ibid: 426). Finally, matrices of observable states are defined on an infinitedimensional space or Hilbert space. As to the general discussion, Dirac made the following remark anticipating his superposition principle: “The matrix theory […] gives information about all the states of the system simultaneously” (Ibid: 442); and Lorenz showed some concern with interpreting matrices as abstract quantities representing quantum states. I was very surprised to see that the matrices satisfy equations of motion. In theory that is very beautiful, but to me it is a great mystery, which, I hope, will be clarified. I am told that by all these considerations one has come to construct matrices that represent what one can observe in the atom, for instance the frequencies of the emitted radiation. Nevertheless, the fact that the coordinates, the potential energy, and so on, are now represented by matrices indicates that the quantities have lost their original meaning and that one has made a huge step in the direction of abstraction. (Ibid: 442)

Indeed, we have moved from pilot-waves in ordinary space to probability waves in infinite-dimensional space where the mathematical formalism is providing the anschaulich content of quantum mechanics. Have not Born and Heisenberg gone too far in replacing the real world with the “world” of mathematics? Do they still see a world? Before, at least, we could see a material world of extended bodies coexisting next to each other and interacting reciprocally. Now, the world is reduced to a probability wave in abstract space. In short, the quantum world “is a great mystery”, to use Lorentz’s expression. Let us turn to our last speaker for an alternative theory of quantum systems. Unlike the pilot-wave theory, Schrödinger’s claimed that his multidimensional wave mechanics was “more remote from Mr. de Broglie’s original ideas, insofar as it is based on a wave-like process in the space of position coordinates (q-space) of an arbitrary mechanical system” (Ibid: 448). In addition, like Broglie’s theory, “in this version also the process to be described is on space and time” (Ibid). But, unlike matrix theory, quantum systems are not discontinuities but continuous processes spread out in space. So, at first sight, except for the first feature, this theory seems compatible with the modern world-hypothesis in as much as waves are continuous bodies that occupy space, that is, they are extended objects. However, to justify that waves are continuous, Schrödinger claimed that “the classical system of material points does not really exist, instead there exists something that continuously fills the entire space” (Ibid: 454). In addition, he expressed some reservations with the


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formulation of his wave mechanics in multidimensional space because he wanted the wave function to describe a system in ordinary space. I would not know how to express more precisely my hope of a possible formulation in a three-dimensional space […] then one will be able to grasp its physical meaning better […] If I am not satisfied with the current state of the problem, it is because I do not understand yet the physical meaning of its solution. (Ibid: 472)

Indeed, unlike pilot-wave theory, both matrix theory and wave mechanics were losing the physical meaning of the mathematical formalism because neither of them could explain how quantum systems were interrelated in ordinary space. Matrix theory, for instance, “does not describe the occurrence in individual systems, but only the processes in an ensemble of very many like constituted systems that do not sensibly influence on another” (Ibid: 454). Similarly, in wave mechanics what is meant by “the existence of these continuous and fluctuating charges is not at all that they should act on each other” (Ibid: 456). Thus, none of these theories told us how quantum systems, regardless of whether they are discontinuous or continuous phenomena, hang together. At least in the case of the pilot-wave theory, the particles and the wave were externally related and the wave acted on the particles guiding their motion. However, according to matrix theory and wave mechanics, the state of a system is not described by a physical wave in three-dimensional space but by an abstract wave in abstract space. Hence, quantum systems do not occupy real space and do not coexist next to each other interacting reciprocally. Where are they if they do not exist in the space-time continuum and how are they interrelated if they are not next to each? The leading scientist of the time had lost the modern cosmology. In fact, at the end of the conference, there was a general discussion that confirmed the foundational crisis of physics. Again, Lorenz was spot on when he said the following about the development of the new theory with regard to the old theories. I should like to preserve this ideal of the past, to describe everything that happens in the world with distinct images. I am ready to accept other theories, on the condition that one is able to re-express them in terms of clear and distinct images. (Ibid: 478)

Next, though we haven’t said much about the uncertainty principle (Heisenberg 1927), Brillouin made an insightful comparison relating it to “the notion of cells in phase space introduced by Planks a very long time ago. Planck assumed that if the representable point of a system is in a cell […] one cannot distinguish it from another point in the same cell” (Ibid: 482). Indeed, the fact that we cannot have a definite position and momentum of a particle simultaneously suggests that quantum systems share the same space and time and work together with other systems. In other words, in the quantum world, quantum systems share the same representative position and momentum. However, without a different world-hypothesis, this is logically impossible to imagine. At last, Einstein joined the discussion, with the following introduction. “I must apologize for not having gone deeply into quantum mechanics. I should nevertheless want to make some general remarks” (Ibid: 487). The first remark was a singleslit thought experiment with de Broglie waves (corpuscular) dispersed when passing

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through a small hole in different directions until they reach a screen where they can be detected. Then he compared the information provided by two hypothetical theories of Broglie waves based on the Schrödinger equation: Interpretation I provides information of an “ensemble of an infinity of elemental processes” and interpretation II “claims to be a complete theory of individual processes” (Ibid.). Whereas the first expresses the probability of finding a particular electron at a given point on a screen, the second goes further in describing the direction of that same electron. However, as it turns out from the quantum formalism, “the scattered wave directed toward P [the screen] does not show any privileged direction […] it could happen that the same elementary process produces an action in two or several places on the screen” (Ibid: 488). To remove this objection, Einstein suggests that Schrödinger’s wave mechanics need to include the trajectories of individual particles to be coherent with the postulate of relativity and, hence, applauds the pilot-wave theory. “I think that Mr. de Broglie is right to search in this direction” (Ibid). However, the second remark is that the Broglie-Schrödinger wave “is essentially tied to a multidimensional representation (configuration space) […] [but] the feature of forces of acting only at small spatial distances finds a less natural expression in configuration space than in the space of three or four dimensions” (Ibid.). Indeed, at first, it seems that by combining Schrödinger’s wave mechanics and de Broglie’s pilot-wave theory, Einstein believed we could determine the precise trajectory of a particular electron and offset the problem of localizing the same electron in several places simultaneously. However, he then realized that using de Broglie’s waves in a configuration space was not suitable for describing the spatial coexistence of mutually interacting particles. That is, having a configuration space meant ruling out one of the basic postulates of the modern world-hypothesis: extended bodies coexist next to each other in different subspaces. Thus, the second remark contains the essence of Einstein’s misgiving with quantum mechanics, the problem of non-contiguity, because, in configuration space, particles do not coexist in different subspaces as in ordinary space. But how does everything coexist spatially in the quantum world then? Maybe quantum systems are not arranged in a space-time continuum? Einstein could not accept this because it was logically incompatible within the modern world-hypothesis; “If one works solely with Schrödinger waves, interpretation II of |Ψ|2 implies to my mind a contradiction with the postulate of relativity” (Ibid: 488). In short, wave mechanics implied the problem of non-contiguity, that is, particles don’t coexist next to each other in different subspaces of the space-time continuum. Of course, Einstein’s remarks triggered the immediate reaction of Bohr. The whole foundation for causal spacetime description is taken away by quantum theory, for it is based on the assumption of observation without interference … excluding interference means exclusion of experiment. (Ibid: 489)

Here Bohr was referring to the measurement problem in quantum mechanics suggesting that the observation (object) is dependent on the observer (subject) making the experiment. We are already familiar with this Cartesian dualism. The difference is that with the old world-hypothesis, we could see a material world regardless


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of whether it was dependent or independent from the subject. Yet, with the statistical interpretation, the world is described as a probability distribution of possible states that is not reduced to an actual state until the subject makes the observation, that so-called wave function collapse. Before that moment, we have a wave function describing a superposition of quantum states in an abstract space. But with the Copenhagen interpretation, there was no cosmology only a mathematical abstraction: a probability wave in Hilbert space! Unfortunately, the space-time continuum of spatially coexisting bodies next to each other was abandoned at Solvay 1927 because, as Dirac stated in the discussion, “at present the general theory of wave function in many-dimensional space necessary involves the abandonment of relativity” (Ibid: 492). Despite the non-contiguity problem implied by the quantum-mechanical mathematical formalism, Einstein would never give up because it implied something logically impossible within the modern world-hypothesis. As we have seen in the discussion, he had already raised this issue at Solvay 1927, but he would have to work harder on his thought experiments if he wanted to convince the scientific community again of this logical contradiction, starting with Bohr who didn’t see his point. “I feel myself in a very difficult position because I don’t understand what precisely is the point which Einstein wants to [make]” (Ibid: 489). This conference would start a debate between Bohr and Einstein that lasted until 1935. But before we trace the Bohr-Einstein debate, we can conclude this section by saying that the conference was a turning point in the history of physics. After Solvay 1927, most scientists were convinced by the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics, even de Broglie who remained under its spell until his pilot-wave theory was revitalized by Bohm (1952). In the case of Schrödinger, despite having contributed to its mathematical formulation with the Schrödinger equation and having proved that matrix mechanics and his wave mechanics were logically equivalent theories, he disliked the Copenhagen interpretation. He could not make sense of the wave function collapse which he ridiculed by means of his famous Cat Paradox (1935) in which a cat in a box would be in a state of being dead and being alive simultaneously until it was actually observed, something logically absurd.

3.3  The Bohr-Einstein Debate In this section, I am going to question a possible misunderstanding of Einstein’s attitude towards quantum mechanics influenced by his discussions with Bohr. It is normally assumed that Einstein was against quantum mechanics because he would not give up on the determinism of classical physics. However, his debate with Bohr wasn’t a battle against the indeterminism of quantum mechanics. No, to understand the real issue behind it, we need a broader time frame of 22 years (1926–1948) to see the evolution of Einstein’s dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics. This means tracing the genesis before Solvay 1927 and including a second debate he had with Born between 1947 and 1948 in the next section. As we will see, Einstein managed to disentangle the problem of non-contiguity from non-locality during those later

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years by defending the principle of contiguity, which was at the heart of old worldhypothesis grounding general relativity. Before we enter into the first debate, let us quote a couple of Einstein’s letters to understand his first attitude towards quantum mechanics before Solvay 1927. As he told Ehrenfest, “My heart is not warmed by the Schrödinger business—it is noncausal and altogether too primitive” (11 January 1927). What did Einstein mean by saying that Schrödinger’s wave mechanics was non-causal? Well, after having analysed the discussions that took place at Solvay 1927 in the light of the collapse of the modern world-hypothesis, we can understand Einstein’s scepticism. Indeed, wave mechanics ruled out the reciprocal interaction between discrete particles to propagate the wave, because electrons were not corpuscle-like, that is, discrete, but wave-like, that is, continuous. However, causality takes place between discrete events in which one necessarily precedes the other. Was Schrödinger’s wave mechanics causal in the same way as de Broglie’s pilot-wave? No, “the real system is a superposition of the classical one in all its possible states” (Ibid: 454). In other words, there is no order of succession between events because particles are not material points. If so, non-causality seems to apply to wave mechanics. Thus, prior to Solvay 1927, it was natural to assume that Einstein was defending the causal determinism of classical physics against the probabilistic indeterminism of quantum physics well-captured by Einstein’s famous quote in a letter to Born on 4 December 1926: “I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice” (Born 1971: 91). However, Einstein’s remarks at Solvay 1927 indicate something different. And yet Bohr’s recollections of the conference in 1949 missed Einstein’s point. “During the discussions, where the whole subject was reviewed by contributions from many sides […] Einstein expressed, however, a deeper concern over the extent to which causal account in space and time was abandoned in quantum mechanics” (Bohr 1949: 212). Furthermore, Lorentz’s remarks in the general discussion about determinism might well have captured a general dissatisfaction with the new theory. “Could one not keep determinism by making it an object of belief? Must one necessarily elevate indeterminism to a principle?” (Ibid: 479). However, causality or determinism was not at all the focus of Einstein’s concern in Solvay 1927 but the problem of noncontiguity implied by wave mechanics. That is, I am arguing that prior to Solvay 1927, Einstein was, indeed, concerned about the non-causality implication of Schrödinger’s wave mechanics, but the general discussion proves that Einstein turned to another problem, which questioned the heart of the modern world-hypothesis grounding general relativity: how is it possible that quantum systems don’t coexist next to each other in different subspaces of the space-time continuum? For Einstein, this was logically impossible. Yet, according to Bohr (1949), From the very beginning the main point under debate has been the attitude to take to the departure from customary principles of natural philosophy […] whether the renunciation of a causal mode of description of atomic processes involved in the endeavours to cope with the situation should be regarded as a temporary departure from ideals to be ultimately revived. (1949: 201–202)


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Furthermore, Yet, a certain difference in attitude and outlook remained, since, with his mastery for coordinating apparently contrasting experience without abandoning continuity and causality, Einstein was perhaps more reluctant to renounce such ideals than someone for whom renunciation in this respect appeared to be the only way open to proceed with the immediate task of co-ordinating the multifarious evidence regarding atomic phenomena. (Ibid: 206)

Thus, Bohr’s account doesn’t bring into light the actual issue behind the debate, the problem of non-contiguity, but contrasts Einstein’s causal space-time with his complementary principle. Consequently, evidence obtained under different experimental conditions cannot be comprehended within a single picture, but must be regarded as complementary in the sense that only the totality of the phenomena exhausts the possible information about the objects. (Ibid: 210)

According to Bohr, due to the interaction between the object and the subject making the observation, “the quantum theory thus forces us to regard the space-time coordination and the claim of causality, the union of which characterizes the classical theories, as complementary features of the description of experience” (12–13 October 1927, unpublished manuscript, in Niels Bohr Collected Works (2008), Vol. 6). Moreover, Heisenberg’s uncertainty relationship between the position and momentum of a quantum object was, in fact, a confirmation of the complementarity principle. This interaction plays an essential role for the appearance of the phenomena themselves […] and we are forced to renounce the combination, characteristic of the classical description, of the space-time coordination of the event with the general conservation theorems of dynamics. For the use of rods and clocks to fix the system of reference makes it by definition impossible to take into account the energy of momentum which might be transferred to them in the course of the phenomenon. Conversely, those quantum laws whole formulation rests essentially on the application of the concept of energy or momentum can appear only under circumstances of investigation from which a detailed account of the space-time behaviour of the object is excluded. (1937: 291–292)

On the one hand, Bohr was claiming that Einstein, representing classical physics, united in a single picture both space-time and energy-momentum descriptions, whereas in quantum physics they cannot be combined because of the interference of the subject with the object when making the experiment. Thus, a complementary mode of description is necessary because “a complete elucidation of one and the same object may require diverse points of view which defy a unique description” (1929 [1934]: 96). On the other hand, Einstein was not so much interested in the causal description of quantum phenomena, but more in their spatial arrangement. Hence, Bohr misunderstood Einstein’s main concern with quantum mechanics at Solvay 1927. This misunderstanding would continue in the next phase of the debate triggered by a paper Einstein (1935) wrote together with Podolsky and Rosen. Since this paper has often been misunderstood, we will distil its main point trying to leave aside the question of localism versus “action-at-a-distance” because, as I have

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argued, causality wasn’t the main issue, but also the question of realism versus idealism because, as I have also argued, the Subject-Object dualism allows for both epistemological positions without changing what we see. However, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, the subject does interfere with the object when making the measurement, which was what the EPR paper wanted to question, as Einstein told Popper (1959) in a letter. The question may be asked whether, from the point of view of today’s quantum theory, the statistical character of our experimental findings is merely the result of interfering with a system from without, which comprises measuring it, while the systems in themselves— described by a ψ- function—behave in a deterministic fashion. (Letter from Einstein to Popper, 11 September 1935)

Indeed, what this EPR paper tries to demonstrate is that the wave function can give us information about the behaviour of systems we haven’t measured. In particular, imagine a “composite system, consisting of the partial system A and B which interact for a short time only” (Ibid.). If we know the wave function before and after their interaction, “quantum mechanics will then give us the Ψ-function for the partial system B, and it will give us various ψ-functions that differ, according to the kind of measurement which we have chosen to carry out upon A” (Ibid.). But if we can predict the state of a system without interfering with it, this is in contradiction with the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics. However, the main implication wasn’t the conclusion “that the wave function does not provide a complete description of the physical reality” (1935: 780), but the problem of non-contiguity: how can we predict the state of subsystem B from the measurement of subsystem A if they exist in different spaces after their interaction? Again, this was exactly the same problem of non-contiguity that Einstein had raised at Solvay 1927. However, Bohr (1935) missed this point again in his reply to the EPR article and continued defending his complementarity principle claiming that the statistical interpretation “was a completely rational description of physical phenomena, such as we meet in atomic processes” (1935: 696). To disprove Einstein’s claim that quantum mechanics was not complete, “I tried to show that from the point of view of complementarity the apparent inconsistencies were completely removed” (1949a: 232). Indeed, Bohr (1935) made use of the same interference argument that the EPR paper had, in fact, questioned. The apparent contradiction in fact discloses only an essential inadequacy of the customary viewpoint of natural philosophy […] Indeed the finite interaction between object and measuring agencies conditioned by the very existence of the quantum of action entails […] the necessity of a final renunciation of the classical ideal of causality. (Ibid: 666–667)

However, Bohr was now saying that complementarity implied the renunciation of causality. A point on which he would insist a couple of years later in a paper named Causality and Complementarity (1937). The analysis and synthesis of experience which is entirely new in physics […] forces us to replace the ideal of causality by a more general viewpoint usually termed ‘complementarity.’ The apparently incompatible sorts of information about the behavior of the object


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

under examination which we get by different experimental arrangements can clearly not be brought into connection with each other in the usual way. (Ibid: 290–291)

Moreover, the complementarity principle would not only be defined by mutually complementary descriptions, such as space-time (position) and causality (momentum), but also by mutually contradictory observations resulting from carrying out measurements using different experimental arrangements. “The well-known dilemma between the corpuscular and undulatory character of light and matter [is] avoidable only by means of the viewpoint of complementarity” (Ibid: 294). That is, the complementarity principle could now embrace logically incompatible phenomena using the same interference argument. The Bohr-Einstein debate was by now over. Einstein was claiming that the statistical interpretation was incomplete, because we could predict the state of a quantum system without interference, and Bohr was proclaiming that it was absolutely complete, since the interference between the object and the measuring instruments accounted for every possible quantum phenomenon we could observe. The conclusion of this debate seems to leave us with an open question. If Bohr (1937) was right, it follows “our not being any longer in a position to speak of the autonomous behavior of a physical object” (Ibid: 293). But, if Einstein (1935) was right, “the systems in themselves—described by a Ψ function—behave in a deterministic fashion” (Letter from Einstein to Popper, 11 September 1935). However, the real issue wasn’t the indeterminism of quantum physics versus the determinism of classical physics. No, the real issue was that Einstein’s thought experiments were revealing a logically impossible implication within the modern world-hypothesis: non-contiguous phenomena. And Einstein could not accept the prevailing interpretation of quantum mechanics because he wanted a complete physical theory that united the whole of physics. “I reject the basic idea of contemporary statistical quantum theory, insofar as I do not believe that this fundamental concept will provide a useful basis for the whole of physics” (1949b: 666). But it was only in the late 1940s that he was finally able to make explicit his real issue with quantum mechanics implicit in the single-slit and the EPR thought experiments.

3.4  The Born-Einstein Debate We can find Einstein’s final position regarding quantum mechanics in several pieces of work he wrote between 1946 and 1948. On the one hand, Einstein’s Autobiographical Notes (1946–1947) included in a collective volume of essays devoted to him written by 25 contributors published as Albert Einstein: PhilosopherScientist (1949a). On the other hand, Born’s critical essay on Einstein’s stance towards statistical quantum mechanics encouraged a Born-Einstein debate found in the Born-Einstein Letters (1971) from March 1947 to June 1948, which was fed by Einstein’s “caustic comments” to Born’s manuscript on the Waynflete Lectures and a crucial piece of work, Quantum Mechanics and Reality (1948).

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Indeed, after much effort with the thought experiments of Solvay 1927 and the EPR paper of 1935, Einstein was in a position to state this case better by following a logical argument that seemed to him impeccable. We will start with Einstein’s Autobiographical Notes (1946–1947) where he reminds us of the possibility of predicting that state of a subsystem S2 from the measurement carried out in subsystem S1 if we know the total wave function Ψ12 after their interaction, that is, when they “are spatially separated (in the sense of the classical physics) and are without significant reciprocity” (Ibid: 85). In other words, subsystems S1 and S2 are not interacting reciprocally; thus, there is no external causality of one subsystem on the other. Thus, “the character of Ψ2 then depends upon what kind of measurement I undertake on S1 […] however, the real situation of S2 must be independent of what happens to S1” (Ibid.). This conclusion can only mean two alternatives, which are both unacceptable according to Einstein. One can escape from this conclusion only by either assuming that the measurement of S1 ((telepathically)) changes the real situation of S2 or by denying independent real situations as such to things which are spatially separated from each other. (Ibid.)

The first is the so-called action-at-distance or non-locality and the second noncontiguity. At first, Einstein was not sure whether the implication of quantum mechanics was non-locality or non-contiguity judging from his letter written to Born on 3 March 1947 and from the abstract in Quantum Mechanics and Reality (1948), probably written before he actually wrote the paper, and maybe around the same time, he wrote the letter. According to the letter, “I cannot seriously believe in it [the statistical approach] because the theory cannot be reconciled with the idea that physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance” (Letter from Einstein to Born, 3 March 1947). Likewise, according to the abstract, “if in quantum mechanics, we consider the Ψ function as (in principle) a complete description of a real physical situation we thereby imply the hypothesis of action-at-distance” (abstract to QM and Reality). Indeed, at that point, Einstein was focused on the paradox of how the measurement of one subsystem could affect the state of the other if they were spatially separated after their interaction because it implied non-locality. However, the inflection point came just after he wrote that letter when he managed to disentangle the problem of non-contiguity from non-locality by asking himself: what if we don’t measure S1 after their interaction, are the subsystems S1 and S2 non-contiguous phenomena nevertheless? In particular, we can see how Einstein was getting closer to his real issue with quantum mechanics in his “caustic comments” to Born’s manuscript on the Waynflete Lectures, which Born includes after the next letter he received from Einstein 1 year later. There, we can see how Einstein describes to Born what he meant by physical reality in connection to his logical argument. When a system in physics extends over the parts of space A and B, then that which exists in B should somehow exist independently of that which exists in A. That which really exists in B should therefore not depend on what kind of measurement is carried out in part of space A; it should also be independent of whether or not any measurement at all is carried out in space A. (Born 1971: 164)


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That is, according to the modern world-hypothesis, all bodies exist next to each other occupying different spaces; thus, if the bodies are located in separate spaces, then what exist in space B is independent of what exists in space A. This means that Einstein could not accept that system A and system B didn’t have a separate existence if they were spatially separated from each other. In other words, the noncontiguity of system A and system B was logically impossible within the modern world-hypothesis. But we will have to wait until our next piece of work to see how the problem of non-contiguity takes centre stage because he still mentions the problem of non-locality, that is, the inexplicable “sudden change [in B] as a result of a measurement in A. My instinct for physics bristles at this” (Ibid.). Following Pauli’s suggestion, Einstein sent another letter to Born including his most elaborate attempt to prove his point that quantum mechanics was not a comprehensive theory, Quantum Mechanics and Reality (1948), without including the abstract and with the following introduction. I beg you please to overcome your aversion long enough in this instance to read this brief piece as if you had not yet formed any opinion of your own, but had only just arrived as a visitor from Mars. I am not asking you to do this because I imagine that I can influence your opinion, but because I think that it will help you to understand my principal motives far better than anything else of mine you know. (Letter from Einstein to Born, 5 April 1948)

Now the argument wasn’t that quantum mechanics was an incomplete theory because we could predict the state of a subsystem B from the measurement of subsystem A. No, instead of offering a logical argument, Einstein decides to compare the logical consistency between two principles. On the one hand, we have Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle which means that we cannot know the exact position or momentum of a particle before we measure it and, thus, “two Ψ functions which differ in more than trivialities always describe two different real situations […] The above is also valid, mutatis mutandis, to describe systems which consist of several particles” (Born 1971: 170). And on the other hand, what Einstein calls the principle of contiguity is, in fact, the modern world-hypothesis. The concepts of physics relate to a real outside world, that is, ideas are established relating to things such as bodies, fields, etc., […] It is further characteristic of these physical objects that they are thought of as arranged in a space-time continuum. An essential aspect of this arrangement of things in physics is that they lay claim, at a certain time, to an existence independent of one another, provided these objects ‘are situated in different parts of space. (Ibid.)

In short, the principle of contiguity assumes that bodies coexist next to each other in different subspaces but never in the same space. Well, according to Einstein, the principle of contiguity is logically inconsistent with the principle of uncertainty because, according to the latter, the measurement carried out on system A gives us a statistical prediction of system B, but, according to the former, since bodies exist in different subspaces, “the external influence on [space] A has not direct influence on [space] B” (Ibid: 171). This logical conflict meant to Einstein the quantum mechanics was not a complete description of reality because he could not see any phenomena that could contradict the principle of contiguity.

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When I consider the physical phenomena known to me, and especially those which are being so successfully encompassed by quantum mechanics, I still cannot find any fact anywhere which would make it appear likely that requirement II [principle of contiguity] will have to be abandoned. (Ibid: 172–173)

However, Born’s reaction was to question the contiguity principle in the case of light and generalizing it to matter. It seems to me that your axiom of the ‘independence of spatially separated objects A and B’, is not as convincing as you make out. It does not take into account the fact of coherence [optics]; objects far apart in space which have a common origin need not be independent. (Letter from Born to Einstein, 9 May 1948)

Reflecting on his answer when putting together the Born-Einstein letters, Born wrote: The axiom certainly does not apply to light; but if the movement of matter can be described as ‘wave motion’—and it was Einstein himself, after all, who supplied some powerful arguments for this—then the concept of coherence can be applied to beams of matter: from this it follows that, as in the case of light, one can under certain circumstances draw conclusions about the state at B by determining the state at A. (Born 1971: 176)

Finally, Einstein was rather dissatisfied with this answer because Born did not understand his point. Your letter about the interpretation of the quantum theory goes into quite a lot of detail but does not keep to my logical system […] I should just like to add that I am by no means mad about the so-called classical system, but I do consider it necessary to do justice to the principle of general relativity in some way or other. (Letter from Einstein to Born, 1 June 1948)

Indeed, general relativity was grounded on the modern world-hypothesis, but what he did not realize is that a world-hypothesis determines what is logically possible and impossible and, thus, what scientists can see and cannot see. So, according to the modern one, they could only see independently existing phenomena in different spaces, but they couldn’t see non-contiguous phenomena because it was logically impossible. In addition, what the principle of uncertainty was suggesting wasn’t that quantum mechanics was an incomplete description of reality but that quantum systems don’t follow a continuous trajectory and non-continuity was also logically impossible within the old world-hypothesis. Given what I’ve just said, we could rename the principle of uncertainty as the principle of discontinuity. Likewise, we could call the impossibility of the principle of contiguity within the modern world-hypothesis the principle of entanglement, that is, quantum systems share the same space and time. In spite of the logical impossibility of the principle of discontinuity and the principle of entanglement, these are logically possible, along with non-external causality and non-duality, within a new world-hypothesis.


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

4  Making Sense of the Quantum World To make sense of quantum mechanics, we have to question those principles that are logically impossible within any world-hypothesis and accept those that are logically possible within a new world-hypothesis that also sheds light on the quantum phenomena that seem more mysterious such as the double-slit experiment and quantum entanglement. Let us start with the principles of complementarity and of superposition. According to Bohr’s complementarity principle, The evidence obtained under different experimental conditions cannot be comprehended within a single picture, […] the corpuscular and wave properties of electrons and photons […] have to do with contrasting pictures, each referring to an essential aspect of empirical evidence. (Bohr 1949: 210)

In postulating this principle, he was accepting two mutually contradicting pictures of the quantum world which goes against every possible world-hypothesis since it assumes a logical contradiction. According to the modern one, both particles and the wave could coexist together simultaneously, and this is, in fact, how de Broglie understood the dual nature of matter, that is, material electrons coexisting within a material wave guiding them. However, Bohr was advocating for the need to embrace two mutually exclusive pictures of the quantum world because otherwise, we would be missing some information about quantum states. If we accept the wave-like and the particle-like pictures, we do not need to reduce waves either to discrete quantum states (Heisenberg) or to continuous quantum states (Schrödinger). However, by assuming two mutually exclusive concepts of matter, quantum systems became both discrete and continuous simultaneously. In order to argue for this logical impossibility, quantum systems could not be conceived as extended bodies coexisting next to each other in different spaces but had to be reduced to observable states showing either wave-like or particle-like properties. Hence, electrons and photons were reduced to measurable states. However, by doing so, he was assuming that the quantum world is logically contradictory because quantum systems were now discrete-continuous states, that is, mutually contradictory phenomena. Furthermore, given that measurable states are said to be dependent on the observer, the entities behind those observable states were not autonomous beings because what was observed (object) was affected by the observer (subject) making the measurement. Indeed, Bohr assumed the Subject-Object dualism, but instead of using causality as an a priori law of the subject that connected phenomena, like Kant argued, objects are now influenced by an interfering subject. Accordingly, the measured quantum states are dependent on the interference of the subject on the object. This means that objects are no longer external to each other since the subject is now the external cause affecting the object’s state. This, of course, is logically impossible within a world-hypothesis in which the quantum world changes by itself as a self-determined system.

Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics


Next, what about the superposition principle? This also seems to be ruled out by every possible world-hypothesis. Indeed, quantum systems cannot be in more than one quantum state simultaneously before we observed them. The general principle of superposition of quantum mechanics applies to the states [...] of any one dynamical System. It requires us to assume that between these states there exist peculiar relationships such that whenever the system is definitely in one state we can consider it as being partly in each of two or more other states. The original state must be regarded as the result of a kind of superposition of the two or more new states, in a way that cannot be conceived on classical ideas. (Dirac 1930 [1947]: 12)

This is logically impossible within a cosmology in which all systems have a state, and no system can exist in more than one state simultaneously. Furthermore, a quantum system cannot exist in two contradictory possible states simultaneously before we measure its actual state. This also assumes that we can separate possibility from actuality and argue that the actual world results from different possible worlds. But what about these possible worlds, where can they exist simultaneously, and how do they hang together? In short, Dirac’s (1930) principle of superposition of quantum states is logically absurd. Do we have any other principles in quantum mechanics that make sense? Indeed, unlike the former principles, the uncertainty principle is fundamental to quantum mechanics and logically possible within a new world-hypothesis in which we imagine the possibility of different quantum systems sharing space and time and working together. As it was formulated by Heisenberg (1927), “The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.” Indeed, when we measure the position of a particle, we only get a representative momentum, and when we measure the momentum of the particle, a representative position. Thus, this indeterminacy relation between the position and the momentum of quantum systems makes sense within a new cosmology. Furthermore, the uncertainty principle is telling us more about quantum systems. We cannot have the exact position and the exact momentum simultaneously because quantum systems are discontinuous beings that do not follow a continuous trajectory. If so, maybe quantum systems are at a crossroad instead of on a predetermined path as the next experiment seems to suggest. In the double-slit experiment, an electron shutter is used to send electrons through two separate holes on a slit, and then they hit a screen where they are detected. What is mysterious about this experiment is that when the electrons are only given one actual path from the two possible paths, that is, they can only enter one single hole at a time because the other is closed; the measurement of the probability distribution of adding the isolated paths together does not match the probability distribution of leaving the two holes open at the same time. What we observe instead is the probability distribution of a wave and not the compound probability of the two alternative paths. According to Feynman (1964, Vol. III), the two-slit experiment is “a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery” (Ibid: 11).


Annex I: The Foundational Crisis of Physics

Maybe this quantum phenomenon is not as mysterious as it seems. First, since quantum systems are at the crossroads, it does not make sense to ask about the probability of isolated paths if they can follow alternative paths. Second, the probability distribution of the two open holes captures not two clusters of electrons but a quantum system in which particles are working together as a wave. Third, the quantum system is not a particle-wave being but a single self-determined system since material beings have a non-dual nature. Lastly, the particles are not externally caused by the wave because particles change together as a quantum system. Thus, this experiment shows that non-external causality is impossible within the modern worldhypothesis but not within the new one. Finally, even though self-determined quantum systems are at a crossroads between two possible alternative paths, what results is a different path suggesting they work together. What about the mystery of quantum entanglement? As we remember from the section on the Born-Einstein debate, I tried to disentangle the problem of noncontiguity from non-locality or “action-at-a-distance” related to the measurement of spatially separated quantum systems. If quantum system A and system B share the same space and time, then the apparent “instantaneous” change of system B as a result of the measurement of system A is not really the non-local causality of system A on system B. On the contrary, the concept of causality assumes that all systems are external to each other and that every change must have an external cause regardless of the spatial distance between systems, that is, non-external change is impossible. Let me explain this better. The correlation of states that have been observed between spatially separated quantum systems is not actually action-at-a-distance because those quantum systems do not have an independent existence in different spaces but share the same space and time and work together as entangled systems.

5 Conclusion It has been more than 90 years since the foundational crisis of physics started at the Solvay 1927 Conference. At that time, there were only a few competing theories of quanta, de Broglie’s pilot-wave theory, the matrix mechanics formulated by Heisenberg, Born, and Jordan, and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics. The first was an attempt to ground quantum mechanics on the modern world-hypothesis and the others wanted to decipher what the mathematical formalism was saying about the quantum world. Unfortunately, today, the possible physical interpretation of the wave function is still a mystery despite the proliferation of different interpretations of quantum mechanics. We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation, all physicists agree on the same mathematical formalism that has been so effective in predicting every possible observation, but they do not know what the equations actually mean. In fact, according to Feynman’s (1965) famous statement, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics”.

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My diagnosis is that the foundational crisis of physics can only be solved with a new world-hypothesis. And the evidence that the quantum world is no longer compatible with the modern cosmology was shown by de Broglie’s attempt to develop the pilot-wave theory as well as by Einstein’s single slit (1927) and EPR (1935) thought experiments. For Einstein’s thinking imagination, the problem of non-contiguity implied by the quantum mechanics was logically impossible because, in the physical world, bodies necessarily coexist next to each other in different spaces of the space-time continuum. This great scientist struggled to show over 20 years that quantum mechanics was far from a complete theory until he finally clarified to himself what was at stake: the logical incompatibility between the principle of discontinuity and the principle of contiguity, the foundation of general relativity.

Annex II: The Neo-Cybernetic Synthesis

1 Introduction Every work has a story behind it, one that it is not often told. My encounter with cybernetics came at an early stage of my PhD when I had just finished my masters in Sustainability and I was still uncertain about the topic I was going to pursue for this long-term intellectual commitment. However, that would be clarified after a short meeting I had in December 2012 with the founder of La Fageda, Cristóbal Colón (indeed, the same name as the person who “discovered” America!), an entrepreneur who has built a successful company that employs socially excluded people as its core business and well-known in Spain for its delicious yogurts. Well, to cut a story short, La Fageda was experiencing some changes at the senior management level when its founder decided to take over once again the day-to-day management of the company and steer it in the right direction. I happened to land there in the summer of 2012 to learn about this paradigmatic case study I had now chosen for my master’s dissertation without knowing or guessing anything about its current situation. Cristóbal was approaching retirement age and wanted to secure the future of La Fageda. Of course, I had nothing to offer, though I told him that I was just starting my PhD and that it might be worthwhile to see if it could help somehow in finding a possible solution. So we agreed to meet each other on a periodical base to give it a chance. Well, a couple of months later, I discovered a theory of organization that would change the course of my PhD thesis (2017a), the viable system model (Beer 1972, 1979, 1985). Unfortunately, the man that had developed that systems methodology, Stafford Beer (1926–2002), has passed away 10 years earlier though his legacy was striving in terms of books and of committed systems practitioners combine it with other methodologies in designing systemic interventions. That is how I learned about the Centre for Systems Studies at the University of Hull in the UK and contacted its director and professor of systems thinking, Gerald Midgley, immediately after reading his great book Systemic Intervention: Philosophy, Methodology and Practice (2000). Indeed, at the time, a VSM systemic © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Pretel-Wilson, Utopics, Contemporary Systems Thinking, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54177-4



Annex II: The Neo-Cybernetic Synthesis

intervention seemed to be the right solution to secure the thriving of La Fageda after Colón’s retirement, but I knew nothing on how to apply systems methodologies that could be helpful. After explaining to Gerald what I was after and suggesting that “I would like to link my PhD (currently at the UPC-Barcelona Tech) with your centre in order to improve my knowledge and skills as regards certain methodologies”, I received a positive reply, “I would be happy to invite you over to give a seminar on your research”. In the meantime, Gerald introduced me to Angela Espinosa, an expert on management cybernetics, and later I meet her husband, John Walker, another passionate VSM practitioner, who became my crucial partners in finding a solution for La Fageda. After ending the VSM intervention, Beer’s cybernetic theory of viability continued to fascinate me because it was informed by the physiology of the nervous system, that is, neurophysiology. Though I could not understand much about the anatomy and physiology of the brain, I started to develop the conviction that cybernetics, as I understood it at the time, was the key to the future unification of physiology and psychology. To me, those fields could not be reduced to biology because cybernetic systems were different from evolutionary systems but also from human systems. However, I had nothing to ground my strong conviction that the discovery of how cybernetic world works corresponded to a different domain of science. However, I was surprised to discover that the cybernetics was increasingly associated with engineering sciences, such as artificial intelligence and computer science, that is, with the design of “intelligent” machines, rather than with understanding of how the animal world works. But it was only the latter what had drawn my attention to Beer’s neurocybernetic model because it did justice to the essence of any viable system, the stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. In particular, I believe that the unification of physiology, psychology, and ethology, the study of the behaviour of animals, depends on answering a fundamental scientific question: why do animals maintain a stable equilibrium with their environment? Indeed, this new synthesis in science depends on discovering a theory of cybernetic systems. In fact, someone associated with cybernetics claimed in his journal on 14 February 1956 “that a discovery has been made and a major problem solved” while regretting that “I have done nothing to build up an association between the name of Ashby and the Theory of Ultrastability”. That person, W. Ross Asbhy (1903–1972), was well-known in the cybernetic community for two books, Design for a Brain (1952) and An Introduction to Cybernetics (1956), and for building a curious artefact, the Homeostat, described by Time magazine (1949) as “the closest thing to a synthetic brain so far designed by man”. However, his major discovery made in 1953 would not see the light until his unpublished journal was made available by his family in 2008. Instead, the history of cybernetics is usually described as short-lived paradigm defined by Wiener’s (1948) as the control and communication in the animal and the machine that started to lose ground in the mid-1950s either giving way to cognitive science (Dupuy 1994) or being replaced by artificial intelligence (Pickering 2010).

Annex II: The Neo-Cybernetic Synthesis


From the mid-1950s onwards a representationalist stand of AI come to the fore and it achieved institutional dominance within the space of about ten years […] Historically, representational, or symbolic, AI quickly became the dominant paradigm in the universities, largely displacing cybernetics from its already tenuous foothold, not only from computer science departments and their ilk, but from social science departments, too, in the so-called cognitive revolution, in which human mental powers were conceived by analogy to digital computers as information processors. (Ibid: 61–62)

It is too tempting to explain the rise and fall of cybernetics by invoking sociological factors such as the hegemony of one paradigm over another, as if the progress of science depended either on a paradigm shift made by a community of scientists or on the institutional support of academia. On the contrary, as I have shown in Appendix I, the rise of modern science with the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century and, particularly, the different syntheses in physics were grounded on a new world-hypothesis inaugurated by Descartes (1637a) and that culminated in Kant (1781/1787). However, it eventually collapsed with birth of quantum mechanics in the late 1920s leading up to the current interpretational crisis. Now scientists do not know what the quantum formalism means, that is, what the wave function in the Schrödinger equation is saying about the quantum world. As I argue in that work, this signals the foundational crisis of physics which can only be solved which a new world-hypothesis. Paradoxically, at the same time that physics lost its ground, a new world-hypothesis worked out jointly by Husserl (1925, 1952) and Heidegger (1927) was on the horizon making possible the unification of biology in late 1930s and 1940s, the socalled evolutionary synthesis (Mayr and Provine 1980). This new synthesis in science brought together the contributions of genetics and systematics under Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution and eventually led, in the mid-1950s, to the emergence of molecular biology with the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick (1953). However, other fields such as physiology and psychology did not quite fit within the evolutionary synthesis because they were part of different history. Indeed, in the 1910s, psychology has matured enough to have its own separate history, An Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology (Murphy 1929), and the same happened with physiology immediately after, A Short History of Physiology (Franklin 1933). In addition, the emergence of modern neuroscience, in the late 1950s, didn’t quite fit within biology either, but by the 1980s, with the emergence of computational neuroscience, it was clear that it belonged to cognitive science, as “the study of mind as machine” (Boden 2006: xxxv), together with artificial intelligence, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and even philosophy! Ironically, physiology as a whole was not integrated within cognitive science, only the study of the brain, despite the fact that the great physiologists Claude Bernard (1813–1878) and Walter Cannon (1871–1945) are generally regarded as precursors of cybernetics, now conceived as the forerunner of cognitive science. Indeed, there was something about cybernetics that the metaphor of mind as machine could not capture. However, the cybernetic movement became increasingly associated with a failed attempt at the “mechanization of the mind” leading up to cognitive science. Yet, the history of the cybernetics you a going learn about in this work is


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neither of that of the emergence of a new paradigm that was replaced by artificial intelligence nor the prehistory of cognitive science. Instead, it predates the standard history of cybernetics and has its own prehistory that begins in the early 1800s with the birth of modern physiology. More importantly, the history of the birth of this new domain of science ends in the early 1950s before the birth of modern neuroscience. Why exclude “the revolutionary 1950s” (Shepherd 2010)? Well, the use of the new microelectrode techniques in the 1950s to understand the synaptic organization of neurons led to the belief in the late 1960s that the neural circuits are the functional units of behaviour in the brain, whereas in this work I will argue for the functional systems which involve the whole nervous system. The case of psychology is interesting because it is normally assumed that behaviourism dominated the field between 1930 and early 1950s, but the different contemporary schools of psychology at the time were actually converging towards the functional approach in the 1930s and 1940s (Brunswick 1946, 1952). However, “today, the schools are gone, and a spirit of eclecticism prevails” (Hergenhahn 2009: 644). And, starting in the mid-1950, the “cognitive revolution” was supposed to bring forth “the mind’s new science” (Gardner 1985), a new synthesis in science. However, 50 years later, its founders now “prefer to speak of the cognitive sciences, in the plural” (Miller 2003) and others claim that “each discipline, in its own way, discusses the mind” (Boden 2006). This sounds like a great deception! The analogy of the mind as computer seems to have failed psychology (Bruner 1990). But what has gone unnoticed is that with the collapse of the functional approach in psychology, something fundamental was given up: the functional relationship between the organism and its environment. Indeed, according to cognitive science, the environment is no longer related to the mind because “the organism carries a ‘small-scale model’ of external reality and of its own possible actions within its head” (Craik 1943: 61). However, if the brain has a cognitive model of the environment, this hypothesis replaces the functional relationship between the organism and its environment with the separation of the brain from the environment. Unfortunately, the internal fragmentation of neurophysiology and psychology with the emergence of neuroscience and cognitive psychology as they merged into cognitive neuroscience in the mid-1980s also shows that when a domain of science is lacking a world-hypothesis to ground itself, its consolidated fields start losing their original subject matters. In the case of physical and biological science, it is clear that these domains of science explain how physical and evolutionary systems work, indeed, but does cognitive science explain how the mind as a machine works? More specifically, are cybernetic systems brains hosting internal models of the environment? Instead, following Ashby (1956), this work is going to show that a cybernetic system is an information-tight system in which the organism and its environment are part of the same information circuit and, thus, they cannot be separated from each other because they are functionally dependent. Furthermore, though nobody knows about it, Ashby’s great discovery was a general theory of cybernetic systems grounded on that same axiomatic idea. And the purpose of this work is to tell the history of the domain of neo-cybernetics whose synthesis depended on assuming a new world-hypothesis as was the case with the domain of biological science.

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2  The Foundation of Biology and neo-Cybernetics We have to start by understanding what made possible the unification of biological science. One of the mysteries in the history of biology is why Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution by natural selection needed to wait 90 years before it was fully accepted by biologists. Well, if we compare it with the Scientific Revolution that led to the first synthesis in physics at the end of the seventeenth century, the Newtonian synthesis, it becomes clear that the neo-Darwinian synthesis was lacking something that postponed that synthesis until the late 1930s and 1940s, namely, a new worldhypothesis on which to ground biological science. Indeed, as I have shown in Appendix I, the syntheses in physical science depended on a new world-hypothesis that gave rise to modern science. This suggests that the progress in the domains of science depends on the progress in the domain of philosophy. In the case of biology, what was missing was a different concept of time that questioned the prevailing idea that all individual organisms belong to a finite number of static types of species akin to the chemical elements of the periodic table. Moreover, the idea of change in physics was understood as moving from one space to another, that is, as change of place. Particles could move either within the space of an extended body, that is, internal change, or exchanging places with other extended bodies, because two bodies could not occupy the same space at the same time. However, change as something different from change of place was alien to physics because, according to the modern world-hypothesis, the material world was made of extended bodies coexisting next to each other in different subspaces of the space-time continuum. In other words, what was missing in biology was a new concept of time non-reducible to spacetime. And that temporal dimension of the biological world came from a different world-hypothesis born in 1927. But was that concept of time sufficient to ground biological science? No, the new temporal dimension has to come together with a new spatial dimension which was anticipated earlier. Immediately after Darwin’s masterpiece saw the light, Herbert Spencer published First Principles (1862) in which he introduced a spatial duality that was going to be fundamental to ground biology even though he combined it with a very unfortunate duality in order to provide his own concept of evolution, orthogenesis. A type of biological theory much criticised because it “ascribe[s] evolution to a built-in tendency or drive toward progress and ever greater perfection” (Mayr 1980: 5). According to Spencer, “Evolution is a change from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity, to a definite, coherent heterogeneity, through continuous differentiation and integration” (Ibid [2009]: 216). He was definitely misled in thinking of evolution in terms of a progressive process from homogeneity to heterogeneity though spot on when writing the following. Evolution is characterized not only by a continuous multiplication of parts [differentiation], but also a growing oneness in each part [integration] […] The two changes are simultaneous, or are rather opposite aspects of the same change. This change, however, cannot be rightly comprehended without looking at both its sides. (Ibid: 196)


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These simultaneous processes correspond, in fact, to the horizontal-vertical spatial duality peculiar to the biological world. In fact, this duality has a counterpart in the concentration-diffusion processes intrinsic to the physical world identified by Kant (1756). It is ironical that Mayr, both a great biologist and historian of biology who praised the importance of the horizontal-vertical duality for the evolutionary synthesis, could claim that “it would be quite justifiable to ignore Spencer totally in a history of biological ideas because his positive contributions were nil” (Mayr 1982: 386). And he was partly right in saying so because it was Spencer who “suggested substituting for natural selection the term “survival of the fittest”, which is so easily considered tautological: it was likewise he who became the chief proponent in England of the importance of the inheritance of acquired characters” (Ibid.). However, it was also he who discovered the two aspects of evolution that Mayr so often stresses in his books. “Transformation deals with the ‘vertical’ (usually adaptive) component of change in time. Diversification deals with processes that occur simultaneously, like the multiplication of species, and can also be called the ‘horizontal’ component of change” (Ibid. 400). Indeed, Spencer’s differentiation and integration correspond neatly with the simultaneous vertical-horizontal processes in the biological world. Though Mayr (1997) identifies the vertical dimension with time and the horizontal dimension with space, it is not a tempo-spatial duality since the temporal duality intrinsic to the biological world is something different from its spatial duality and had to wait for the birth of a new world-hypothesis founded by Husserl-Heidegger (1927). In particular, according to this “cosmology”, the world is primordially historical or grounded on the origin-past temporal duality. This was the first time that a different concept of time was introduced into science because until then time was part of the space-time continuum of physics, that is, time was homogenous to space, rather than being two heterogeneous dimensions of the universe. It is true that Bergson (1922) had criticized Einstein’s concept of time claiming that true time is the duration of feeling but that proposal was not related to the structure of the universe. In summary, the intrinsic structure of the biological world in terms of space (horizontal-vertical) and of time (origin-past) could now come together to ground biology as a different domain of science making possible the evolutionary synthesis. The natural world was not reducible to a static universe because living systems evolved over time. Furthermore, thanks to the introduction of that new concept of time, biology could now draw a disciplinary division within its domain of science between functional biology and evolutionary biology. “For biology can be divided into the study of’ proximate causes, the subject of the physiological sciences (broadly conceived), and into the study of’ ultimate (evolutionary) causes, the subject matter of natural history (Mayr, 1961)” (Mayr 1982: 67). Indeed, in tracing the origin of the proximate-ultimate distinction, Mayr claims that it was established during the period of the evolutionary synthesis.

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John Baker was apparently the first author to distinguish clearly between ultimate causes responsible for the evolution of a given genetic program (selection) and proximate causes responsible, so to speak, for the release of the stored genetic information in response to current environmental stimuli: “Thus abundance of insect food for the young [at certain months] might be the ultimate, and length of day the proximate cause of a breeding season” (Mayr, 1982: 162). (Ibid: 68)

He also acknowledges that this distinction is more than a disciplinary division as it suggests two self-contained domains of knowledge within biology according to different forms of causality. The two “biologies” that are concerned with the two kinds of causations are remarkably self-contained. Proximate causes relate to the functions of an organism and its parts as well as its development, from functional morphology down to biochemistry. Evolutionary, historical, or ultimate causes, on the other hand, attempt to explain why an organism is the way it is. (Ibid.)

Indeed, the new concept of time was essential to demarcated evolutionary biology from functional biology which meant that physiology was left out of the evolutionary synthesis despite its long history of scientific discoveries. This seems a paradox given that, besides the physical sciences (physics and chemistry), physiology was the only other category of science for which a Nobel Prize was established by Alfred Nobel’s will in 1895 and awarded for the first time in 1901. Surprisingly, this prize was in 1973 awarded to contributions in the field of ethology (animal behaviour) which, as we will see, is also a scientific partner of physiology and psychology. Other fields, which do not belong to the same domain of science as physiology, that is, neo-cybernetics, did receive a Nobel Prize such as molecular biology in 1962 and genetics in 1983. After this, I wonder why the Norwegian Nobel Committee has not created a different category for biological science after the evolutionary synthesis. Maybe, one day, there will be another Nobel Prize granted to contributions in the category of neo-cybernetic science and even of human science, who knows? In Mayr’s (1982) opinion, When Alfred Nobel wrote out the conditions for Nobel prizes, he thought entirely in terms of new discoveries, particularly those useful to mankind. Yet to think of science merely as an accumulation of facts is very misleading. In biological science, and this is perhaps rather more true for evolutionary than for functional biology, most major progress was made by the introduction of new concepts, or the improvement of existing concepts. Our understanding of the world is achieved more effectively by conceptual improvements than by the discovery of new facts. (Ibid: 23)

Contrary to the sociology of scientific knowledge, what the evolutionary synthesis shows is that the progress in the domains of science depends on the progress in the domain of philosophy rather than on social groups establishing a scientific paradigm. The Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century, for instance, was made possible by the rise of the modern world-hypothesis just like the rise of the next world-hypothesis made logically possible the unification of biology even though some disciplines like physiology, psychology, and ethology did not fit within that new domain of science. And the reason why “functional biology” was not part of the


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evolutionary synthesis is because those sciences belong to a different synthesis in science, the neo-cybernetic synthesis. But before we move to the prehistory of cybernetics, let us try and understand a bit better the synthesis in biology through its founding fathers. We can start by contrasting the foundational crisis in physics at the Solvay 1927 Conference with the Princeton 1947 Conference signalling the unification of biology. The split between microphysics (quantum mechanics) and macrophysics (general relativity), Niels Bohr (1885–1962) versus Albert Einstein (1879–1955), contrasts with the unification of genetics and systematics, Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900–1975) and Ernst Mayr (1904–2005). Indeed, the fall of the modern world-hypothesis with the birth of quantum mechanics in the late 1920s contrasts with the birth of the evolutionary synthesis after the rise of next world-hypothesis in the late 1920s. Recalling the Princeton 1947 Conference, Mayr (1980) pondered If such a meeting had been held fifteen years earlier there would have been bitter arguments from morning to night, each participant trying to refute the claims of the others. Nothing of the sort happened at Princeton. In fact, it was almost impossible to get a controversy going, so far reaching was the basic agreement among the participants. To test the reliability of my memory, I circulated a questionnaire among the survivors […] All of them recalled an essential agreement among the all the participants on the gradual mode of evolution, with natural selection as the basic mechanism and the only direction-giving force. (Ibid: 42)

Before that consensus, however Two camps were recognizable, the geneticists and the naturalists-systematists […] In the early 1930s, despite all that had been learned in the preceding seventy years, the level of disagreement among the different camps of biology seemed almost as great as in Darwin's days. And yet, within the short span of twelve years (1936–1947), the disagreements were almost suddenly cleared away and a seemingly new theory of evolution was synthesized from the valid components of the previously feuding theories. (Mayr and Provine 1981: 18)

Furthermore, there was another conference held in 1974 to analyse the role of the various biological disciplines in bringing forth the evolutionary synthesis, such as genetics, cytology, embryology, systematics, botany, paleontology, and morphology and was attended by some of its architects such as Dobzhansky (1937), Mayr (1942), and Stebbins (1950). Unfortunately, Huxley (1942), Simpson (1944), and Rensch (1947) could not make it, though they responded to a questionnaire about crucial aspect of the new synthesis, and Rensch even sent a paper about the development of Neo-Darwinism in Germany with his own view on evolution. So what were the crucial contributions leading up to the unification of biological science? Starting from genetics, the rediscovery of Mendel’s (1866) theory of heredity in 1900 resulted in an intensive period of research on the inheritance of variations which confirmed the Mendelian ratios in many organisms and also Mendel’s laws of segregation displacing Vries’s saltationist theory of evolution. In terms of clearing up misunderstanding, Fisher, Haldane, and Wright demonstrated from mathematical deductions that the inheritance of acquired characters expounded by Lamarck was not necessarily for evolution. The crucial contribution for the synthesis, however, was Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937) in as much as it brought together theory and observation in population genetics.

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In fact, just after the synthesis in the 1950s, there was a dominant view among the geneticists that the evolutionary synthesis has resulted from applying the discoveries in their field to systematics and paleontology. However, those fields did not play a subsidiary role in the synthesis. In the case of systematics, according to Mayr (1980), the stress on the role of genetics had “overlooked what an important conceptual revolution systematic biology experienced in the post-Darwinian period […] These development, mostly prior to 1900, where quite independent of the developments in genetics” (Ibid: 123). Prior to the 1935, there were two camps, the Mendelians and the naturalists, but their mutual acknowledgement of two types of variation, namely, discontinuous and gradual, started to clarify the differences between them. The main disagreement was with the adoption of the term mutation taken from the de Vries to describe gradual adaptive variation which lead systematics to believe in two forms of evolution, evolution “by mutation” (discontinuous saltations) in addition to evolution by speciation (continuous changes). However, with the understanding of geographic speciation, as a gradual (continuous) evolution of isolated populations that resulted in separate (discontinuous) species, the two opposing views of variation were eventually reconciled. And, in the case of paleontology, Simpson’s Tempo and Mode (1944) reconciled microevolution with macroevolution showing how both changes are consistent with natural selection. According to him, “the thesis, in briefest form, is that the history of life, as indicated by the available fossil record, is consistent with the evolutionary process of genetic mutation and variation” (Simpson 1976: 5). In addition, he also related morphological changes in animal population to selection pressures in response to changes in the environment. Likewise, for Rensch (1943) “the explosive phases of the phylogenetic beginnings of higher categories came about by intense selection when animals penetrated into a different habitat were [they] could be driven away or wiped out” (Rensch 1980: 297). Finally, Stebbins’s Variation and Evolution in Plant (1950) put together the evidence of speciation and adaptation in plants, already available by 1940, making botany the last partner of the evolutionary synthesis. Generally speaking, there was a standing problem after the synthesis, how to define the unit of evolution which everyone agreed it was the population rather than the individual organism. As Mayr (1982) acknowledges, There is probably no other concept in biology that has remained so consistently controversial as the species concept. One should have thought that the animated debate of the postDarwinian period would have produced clarity and unanimity or, at least, that the new systematics of the 1930s and 40s would have brought final clarity, but this was not the case. (Ibid: 251)

Before the synthesis, the essentialist or morphological concept of species dominated taxonomy defining species according to the degree of morphological difference. It was assumed that all the individuals of a species shared a common essence which was unchanging and, thus, individuals could only change to a limited degree in relation to an essence which was constant over time. This concept of species, in


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fact, was in keeping with the modern world-hypothesis grounding physics in which atoms were conceived as stable particles. But, as we said earlier, the unification of biology was grounded on a different world-hypothesis in which populations were now biological systems evolving over time. This change was described by Mayr (1982) as a shift from typological thinking to population thinking arguing that “a true understanding of natural selection, speciation, and adaptation was not possible until population thinking had displaced typological thinking” (Ibid: 561). And he believes it was new systematics that found the solution in the 1940s and 1950s. It was the naturalists who solved the great species problem, a problem which the geneticists either side-stepped altogether or answered unsuccessfully in a typological manner. The naturalists showed that species are not essentialistic entities, to be characterized morphologically, but that they are aggregates of natural populations that are reproductively isolated from each other and fill species-specific niches in nature. (Ibid: 561)

Indeed, according to Mayr (1982), “a species is a reproductive community of populations (reproductively isolated from others) that occupies a specific niche in nature” (Ibid: 273). By “reproductively isolated”, he meant there are biological properties, called isolating mechanisms, “which prevent the interbreeding of populations that are actually or potentially sympatric [overlap in space]” (Mayr 1963: 91). Therefore, a biological species is a population that, despite occupying the same ecological niche with other populations, is reproductively isolated from them. However, in an additional comment to Mayr’s request on his views on the evolutionary synthesis, Simpson acknowledged: “I do not think the species problem has been solved during the synthesis […] the so-called biological definition has no time dimension and is indeed nonevolutionary or preevolutionary” (Mayr 1980: 462–463). However, what was missing was not the time dimension, which has already been introduced by a new world-hypothesis, but the vertical aspect of evolution, that is, adaptation or phyletic evolution. By defining a species as a reproductively isolated population, Mayr was focusing on the horizontal aspect of evolution, that is, speciation. Thus, isolating mechanisms do not fully capture the unit of evolution because differentiation (horizontal) and integration (vertical) are simultaneous processes in the biological world that cannot be separated from each other. So, in addition to isolating mechanisms explaining differentiation, we have to put equal emphasis on the integrating mechanisms of populations sharing the same niche with other populations and evolving together as one single ecosystem. Likewise, I would argue that even isolated populations do not differentiate alone but adapt together with an ecosystem. Therefore, given that it displays both aspects of evolution, speciation, and adaptation, why do not biologists conceive ecosystems as the unit of evolution instead of isolated populations? Mayr could not disagree more with me, “the species are the real units of evolution.” (1963: 621) The species also to a large extent is the basic unit of ecology. Since ecosystems are composed of species, no ecosystem can be fully understood until it has been dissected into its

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component species and until the mutual interactions of these species are understood. A species, regardless of the individuals composing it, interacts as a unit with other species with which it shares the environment (cf. Cody and Diamond, 1974). This interaction of species is the principal subject of ecology. (1982: 296)

Ironically, it seems that what was getting on the way of fully understanding speciation and adaptation was, in fact, population thinking, which assumed something essential for the modern world-hypothesis, the principle of contiguity. This prevented biology from realizing that species share the same space and time and evolve together. Moreover, the term coevolution does not seem to capture what it means for species to share the same space and time and evolve together because biologists assume that populations cannot occupy the same space simultaneously and, thus, compete with other overlapping or sympatric populations, as if competition between populations was something intrinsic to evolution. Again, evolution means both differentiation and integration, and, thus, competition without cooperation leads to population extinction. However, to solve the problem of species in order to include ecology in the evolutionary synthesis, we need to shift from population thinking to ecosystem thinking. In other words, biology needs to be grounded not on the principle of contiguity but on the principle of entanglement which is logically possible within a different world-hypothesis. As regards the territory of ecology, Margaleff’s (1969) definition provides a good starting point. Ecology, I claim, is the study of systems at a level in which individuals or whole organisms may be considered elements of interaction, either among themselves, or with a loosely organized environmental matrix. Systems at this level are named ecosystems, and ecology, of course, is the biology of ecosystems. To explain why individuals of different species (different classes) behave differently falls outside the scope of ecology. This approach leaves aside much of the stuff traditionally included in books of ecology-much physiology, behavior, and physical geography. (Ibid: 4)

Interestingly, though Margaleff (1957) was an ecologist that pioneered the application of information theory to ecology and considered that cybernetics offered the “basis for a welcome enlargement of the theory of natural selection” (1969: 3), he excluded physiology and ethology within ecological science. Again, it seems that they did not fit within the domain of evolutionary biology. Similarly, Mayr also decided to leave out the history of “functional biology” from The Growth of Biological Thought (1982) planning to write “a later volume that will cover physiology in all of its aspects, developmental biology, and neurobiology” (Ibid: viii) which was never published. Instead, what was missing after the evolutionary synthesis was not a separate volume on functional biology but a new synthesis of a separate domain of science grounded on a new world-hypothesis. But why not grounded it on the same worldhypothesis? Well, because the spatial and temporal structure of the biological world is different from that of the cybernetic world as we are about to see. The first to notice that cybernetic systems had nothing to do with “Newtonian time” was its so-called founder of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener (1948), who, from a


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lack of an alternative concept of time, spoke of “Bergsonian time” thinking it corresponded to the temporal structure of living beings. The modern automaton exists in the same sort of Bergsonian time as the living organism; and hence there is no reason in Bergson's considerations why the essential mode of functioning of the living organism should not be the same as that of the automaton of this type. Vitalism has won to the extent that even mechanisms correspond to the time-structure of vitalism. (Ibid [1985]:44)

It is essential that we get right the spatial and temporal structure of cybernetic systems if we want to ground neo-cybernetics as a new domain different from biological science, instead of including every science that does not belong to physical science in the life sciences. Instead, the key to organize the growing domain of science rest on discovering the heterogeneous structure of the universe, and this is a fundamental question that belongs to the domain of philosophy. So what is the intrinsic structure of cybernetic systems which is different from that of physical and biological systems? I have already explained in introduction how I became acquainted with management cybernetics early in my PhD when I was trying to understand organizational persistence and how I came to realized that it depended on maintaining a stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. In addition, after delving further into cybernetics and neurophysiology, I also realized that the balance between autonomy and control to ensure viability, as Stafford Beer suggested, was not really the spatial duality I was searching for. This I discovered while learning about the work a Soviet neurocybernetician, Pyotr Anokhin (1935, 1968): the central-peripheral spatial duality. Furthermore, in thinking about Anokhin’s (1968) claim that biological systems are anticipatory systems and that Parlov’s signalling principle found in dogs applies equally to protozoa and plants, I clearly understood that he wanted to integrate neurophysiology into biology. Not a single plant could exist, as it world immediately be rejected by natural selection, if it reacted only to an existing factor of the environment, only to that which acts at a given moment, and did not react to the principle of anticipatory reflection. (Ibid [1974]: 17)

He would even argue that “in formulating the conditioned reflex as an “anticipatory” function, i.e., a function of adaptation of the animal to impending event, Pavlov thereby introduced into physiology the third category of time, future (Ibid: 23). Concluding that “we can confidently say that Pavlov found the cardinal and universal feature of the historic development and perfection of the animal world” (Ibid.). But is the anticipation of the future the temporal structure intrinsic to cybernetic systems? Well, it depends on what we understand by the future and if we what is anticipated is really something different from the past or maybe something recurring. Previously, I had been reading Cannon’s Wisdom of the Body (1932) showing how the autonomic nervous system is a homeostatic system in constant internal equilibrium. In addition, Pavlov’s (1927) experiments also showed how animals can lose their external equilibrium with the environment as soon as their central nervous system is severed. The more I thought more about it, the more I realized that the cybernetic world is constituted by the past-present temporal duality. This means

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that cybernetic systems are neither intrinsically structured by the remote past nor by a distant future. In a way, Anokhin (1968) was right in claiming that “the central nervous system […] developed the capacity for maximum and fastest anticipation of sequential and recurring phenomena of the external world” (Ibid. [1974]: 15), though drawing from past success. In summary, the intrinsic structure of the cybernetic world is spatially constituted by central-periphery duality and temporally constituted by the past-present duality. In other words, in a cybernetic system, the organism and its environment are functionally dependent and the current behaviour responds to its immediate past. Furthermore, spatial and temporal dualities constituting the cybernetic world are simultaneous. This is the foundation making possible neo-cybernetic science. Our next step is to tell the history of those fields of science that are part of the next synthesis in ­science, namely, physiology, psychology, and ethology. However, that prehistory of cybernetics we are going to cover now is far from a complete history since I have only selected the scientific contributions that seem relevant to understand the history of neo-cybernetics. Once the unification of this new domain is accepted, I am sure that cybernetic scientists will write the common histories and textbooks we are lacking today, just like it happened in the case with every other new domain of science after its consolidation. In the case of biology, the first histories dealing with the evolutionary synthesis started to appear in the 1950s, but it was not until the early 1980s that a more accomplished history of evolutionary biology was published by Mayr (1982).

3  The Prehistory of Cybernetics When one looks at the prehistory a new domain of science, one is tempted to choose those threads that converge towards the sphere of knowledge we want to advocate for such as neuroscience or cognitive science which emerged in the mid-1950s. However, these are not different domains of science per se since they attempt to merge different fields of science into an interdisciplinary program. In the case of modern neuroscience, according to Cowan, Harter, and Kandel (2000), it emerged in the early 1950s and 1960s from the merging together of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and neurochemistry and, later in the early 1980s, with the integration of molecular biology and molecular genetics, resulting in the unification with biological sciences. Other neuroscientists such as Shepherd (2010), however, go as far as claiming that it includes other fields beyond biology, such as the physical sciences, the behavioural sciences, and the humanities. Thus, they extend the territory of neuroscience over the fields of engineering, computer science, psychology, sociology, neuroeconomics, linguistics, and, even include, neurophilosophy, neuropolitics, and neuroreligion. Similarly, cognitive science has also added in the in the mid-1980s the field of computational neuroscience by merging together computer science and cognitive psychology under the assumption that the


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brain is a computing machine. Lately, other cognitive scientists such as Boden (2006) want a broader definition of the computational machine to include artificial intelligence and cybernetics, which is conceived as a mixture of information theory and control engineering. Both of these interdisciplinary programs, neuroscience and brain science, result from merging basic and applied sciences belonging to the physical and biological sciences and as such cannot be said to constitute a separate domain of science with its own genuine subject matter. Broadly speaking, neuroscientists tend to assume that the brain works like a computer and brain scientists that the brain models the environment. Furthermore, since neuroscientists like Ito (2011) have now become to accept that the brain forms an internal model of the environment as a legitimate hypothesis, we can say that there is a growing coincidence between those two spheres of knowledge. Of course, neuroscience is more rooted in neurophysiology and neuroanatomy than in computer science and artificial intelligence. However, I suppose we could claim that computational neuroscience assumes that the brain models the environment and that the mental model in the mind parallels the neural networks found in the brain as if there was a correspondence between neural and mental processes. So we are left with the question of what is the actual domain of the neo-cybernetics if it is different from that of the study of the brain as a modelling machine. Well, like in all domains of science, there is not one single domain that defines the whole territory because there are several aspects that correspond to different subject matters within a given domain and each of which is deal by a different science. If we look at the prehistory of cybernetics, for instance, we can see that psychology has focused on immediate experience and behaviour, physiology on function, and ethology on animal behaviour. Though these are very general notions, we can say that the focus of psychology is related to achievement, that of physiology to mechanism, and that of ethology to purposive activity. These subject matters will become more precise once we enter into the particular domain investigated by each of those sciences. However, since we are going to start this prehistory of cybernetics with neurophysiology, from the outset I should warn about the possible terminological confusion that could come from identifying the central-peripheral spatial duality intrinsic to cybernetic systems with the anatomical division of the nervous system between the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Indeed, the central neither correspond to the brain and the spinal cord nor the peripheral to the somatic and the autonomic nervous systems. No, the difference is between afferent-efferent pathways (central) and receptors-effectors (peripheral). In other words, in the case of physiology, the central-peripheral duality corresponds to the centralperipheral processes throughout the nervous system connecting the central and autonomic nervous systems with the senses, the muscles, and the glands. However, these physiological processes do not follow a linear path starting (senses) and ending (muscles) in the periphery via the central nervous system because they are simultaneous processes connected by information loops or feedbacks. Indeed, Ashby (1956) wisely defined “cybernetics as the study of systems that are open to energy but closed to information and control – systems that are

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“information-tight” (Ibid [1957]: 4). This is far from saying that cybernetic systems are closed off from the environment because the organism is coupled to its environment via an information circuit. On the contrary, being simultaneous physiological processes suggests that the organism-environment separation is not possible. However, the internal modelling hypothesis assumes what I term the central-periphery chasm in claiming that the brain models or parallels the environment. Finally, another misunderstanding can come from confusing the central-peripheral duality with the neuroanatomical division of the cranial nerves. In particular, though the cranial nerves are considered part of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), the optic nerve that connects the retina to the brain is normally considered as part of the central nervous system (CNS) because it is made of brain tissue despite being a receptor (peripheral). But, again, the receptors-effectors correspond to peripheral processes and afferent-efferent pathways to central processes both of which are the physiological counterpart of the spatial duality intrinsic to cybernetic systems. After this terminological clarification, we have to say that our prehistory of cybernetics only covers from the early nineteenth century to the early 1950s in order to distinguish it from the history of modern neuroscience and brain science. Following Mayr (1982), I will write this prehistory as a problematic history divided into the tree subject matters that have occupied physiology, psychology, and ethology leading up to the history of neo-cybernetics which, in turn, was informed by a fundamental question. As we will section four, the Ashby’s theory of cybernetic systems plays a key role in unifying this new domain of science similar to Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution in the domain of biological science and to Newton’s (1687) laws of motion resulting in the domain of physical science. The difference with the evolutionary synthesis is that W. Ross Ashby (190–-1972) is the sole father of the neo-cybernetics synthesis. So it is time to start our prehistory of this new domain of science with physiology.

3.1 Physiology Conceptually speaking, Bichat (1800) was the first physiologist to provide a long lasting division of the functions of body between the involuntary (“organic”) life and voluntary (“animal”) life. Interestingly, he associated those functions with the internal and external life of the body, but it would be later when Cannon (1932) brought them together as the grand division of the nervous system. “That acting outwardly, in relation to the external environment of the individual; and that acting inwardly, on the viscera, and governing principally the internal environment” (Ibid: 25–26). Another crucial distinction regarding the spinal nerves came from Bell (1811) who suggested that sensory and motor nerves were functionally different, one responsible for sensation and the other for movement, even though their anatomical link to the posterior and anterior roots of the spinal cord was discovered later by Magendie (1822). Though being different types of pathways, the afferent and


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efferent nerves constitute a reflex “arc”, termed coined by Hall (1833, 1837), who considered that all reflex activity corresponded to voluntary movement. A better understanding of different types of reflexes would have to wait for Sechenov (1863b) who distinguished between inborn and acquired reflexes. Anyway, the knowledge of spinal reflexes triggered a controversy in 1853 between Pflüger, a psychologist, and Lotze, a philosopher, “over the problems of whether a spinal animal was sentient and conscious, and whether its movements were purposeful” (Brazier 1959: 35–36). In order words, the question was whether voluntary movements are conscious by definition? The Pflüger claimed that there is consciousness in the spinal cord, but Lotze denied so. At the time it was difficult to accept that spinal reflexes were voluntary movements that did not carry out a conscious purpose. Disentangling the idea of purpose from consciousness was the task of another psychologist, McDougall (1908), who argued that instinctive behaviour was a purposive activity which was later confirmed by Tinbergen’s (1951) study of instinct. After this brief historical context, let us start with the first scientific contributions to physiology. 3.1.1  Bernard and Sechenov Before we could understand the voluntary functions, a major discovery of the involuntary functions was made by the father of modern physiology, Claude Bernard (1813–1878). As a result of the study of the influence of the sympathetic and the somatic nervous system on blood flow regulation, in 1859 he postulated the existence of an internal environment. “We therefore regard as a physiological unit the general fluid which suffuses the various tissues and which is in a closed system, without connection with the outside world” (quoted in Dell 1963: 5). This was a crucial moment because it suggested that the involuntary functions of animals were regulated by the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Furthermore, a few years later, he would go as far as claiming, in higher animals, the independence of the internal environment from the outside world. In vegetables the manifestation of vital phenomena is linked in some way with conditions of warmth, moisture and light in the surrounding environment, also inferior beings and cold-blooded animals […] Only in warn-blooded animals do the conditions of the organism and those of the surrounding environment seem to be independent. (1865 [1949]: 62)

That is, The internal environment, which is a true product of the organism, preserves the necessary relations of exchange and equilibrium with external cosmic environment, but in proportion as the organism grows more perfect, the organic environment becomes more specialized and more and more isolated, as it were, from the surrounding environment. (Ibid: 64)

This higher degree of independence of the internal from the external environment did not mean that the former became more important than the later. “The conditions for life are found neither in the organism nor in the outer environment, but in both at once” (Ibid: 75). However, unlike the internal environment, the external

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environment was considered as a general environment not being part of the system, like in biology. “The general cosmic environment is common to living and to inorganic bodies, but the inner environment created by an organism is special to each living being” (Ibid.). This implied decoupling the organism from its external environment since only its internal environment was the “true physiological environment” and, thus, the physiologist did not need to know the outer environment “because its actual stimuli are found in an inner, organic, liquid environment” (Ibid: 79). Finally, Bernard’s (1878) final statement on this topic was published posthumously in which life was divided according to the importance of the internal environment. The latent life dominated by external conditions, the oscillating life only active when those conditions were favourable to it and the constant or free life of higher animals in which the internal environment is independent from the changes in the cosmic environment. Concluding, The stability of the internal environment is the condition for free and independent life […] The stability of the environment implies the perfection of an organism such that the external variations are compensated and balanced at every moment […] its equilibrium is ensured by a continuous and delicate compensation measured out, as it were, by the most sensitive of scales. (cited in Dell 1963: 23)

This concept of stability was going to play a major role later when it was further developed by Cannon’s (1929, 1932) into the concept of homeostasis as a self-regulatory process within the body maintaining its physiological parameters essential for life within a given range of values. Bernard is normally considered the father of experimental medicine, but his concept of stability of the internal environment was going to make him a forerunner of cybernetics. Ironically, the scientist the compensated for Bernard’s underestimation of the external environment was a Russian physiologist called Ivan Sechenov (1863a) who, in fact, did some work his laboratory in 1862 which would lead to the discovery of central inhibition. Indeed, he carried out some experiments with frogs that demonstrated the existence of higher centres in the brain that inhibited spinal reflexes. This inhibition would later be considered by Anokhin (1968) as “the mechanism of adaptation to the changing environmental conditions” (Ibid [1974]: 264). Sechenov (1861) was not able to see the link between central inhibition and learned behaviour, but what he did realize at the time, maybe from attending Bernard’s lectures, was the equal importance of the external environment. Any organism is inconceivable without an external environment for its existence; hence, a scientific definition of the organism should include also the environment by which it is influenced. Since the organism cannot exist without the external environment, all the talk about what is more important for life –the environment, or the organism itself – is absolutely senseless. (1861[1965]: 501)

By saying so, Sechenov made an equal contribution to neo-cybernetics in being the first physiologist to argue that the organism cannot be separated from its environment. Moreover, the muscular movements of the organism are not always pure


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reflexes resulting from the stimulation of the senses by the environment. Indeed, “the mechanism is brought into action by excitation of the sensory nerves” (Ibid: 72) though the reflex movements could be inhibited or intensified either by spinal or by cerebral centres in which case they were either instinctive or voluntary reflexes. However, unlike the spinal reflexes, the cerebral reflexes could be learned and with habit become involuntary, thus, suggesting a division between innate and acquired reflexes which was going to have a great influence on Pavlov’s studies on conditioned reflexes. In summary, while Bernard had made a mayor contribution to understand the involuntary functions regulated by the PNS, Sechenov was doing likewise for the voluntary functions regulated by the CNS. In fact, his discovery of inhibitory effects would be crucial for the study of spinal reflexes by Sherrington in England, but maybe more fundamental was his suggestion of acquired reflexes which resulted, thanks to the work of Pavlov, in the physiology of higher nervous activity. 3.1.2  Sherrington and Pavlov Sherrington’s (1906) main contribution to our understanding of reflex activity came from his detailed study of the physiology of the spinal reflexes. The integrated action of the nervous system was conceived as a chain of reflexes resulting from the interaction between allied reflexes (excitatory) and antagonistic (inhibitory) reflexes converging towards a “common path”, the actual movement of the animal. Thus, reflex activity was a process consisting of the summation and interference of nerve impulses reaching the muscles. But to argue that nerve impulses could cross the spinal nerves, Sherrington made use of the neurone theory of Ramón y Cajal (1889) who had discovered that nerve cells, the neurons, are separated by a contiguous gap that connects nerve fibres, the synapse, and which could also explain the delay observed in chained reflexes such as the scratch reflex of a dog in comparison to the simple knee-jerk reflex. In addition, he also discovered a special type of receptors that can be found in the muscles, proprioceptors, and distinguished them from interoceptors and exteroceptors receiving stimuli from the internal and the external environment, respectively. Just after Sherrington was writing his major work in 1906, Pavlov was carrying out some experiments on the digestive system of dogs when he noticed something surprising. The salivary secretion when feeding a dog with meat powder could be linked to a new stimulus previously unrelated to that innate reflex. It was possible, for instance, to establish a conditioned reflex between an auditory stimulus, such as a sound, and an unconditioned response, such as the salivary secretion, but only if the new stimulus was prior to feeding of the dog. Given this temporary connection between the two stimuli, Pavlov thought that his experiments confirmed associationism. However, that temporary connection he had discovered was suggesting something radically different. Rather than associating the two stimuli because the dog had experienced them together, the so-called association by contiguity, the conditioned stimulus was a signalling stimulus initiating a reflex reaction in the animal.

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In other words, the dog was anticipating the food when hearing the auditory stimulus. So conditioned stimuli acted as signals that animals receive from their environment having an anticipatory function. Let us insist on this point. The contiguity between the two stimuli did not form an association unless the conditioned stimulus precedes the unconditioned stimulus. However, according to associationism, the order between the stimuli does not matter as long as they are experienced next to each other, but this is not the case with the conditioned reflex which can only be established if the conditioned stimulus is experienced before and not after the unconditioned stimulus. Moreover, Pavlov also noticed that the conditioned reflex could only be formed when the dog was in an alert state, whereas, for associationism, the organism is passively reacting to sensory stimuli. And, in other experiments, he also saw that the conditioned response could be established without repetition which also contradicts that view. In spite of his findings, Pavlov (1934) could never tell the difference. Are there any grounds for differentiation, for distinguish between that which the physiologist calls the temporary connection and that which the psychologist terms association. They are fully identical; they merge and absorb each other. Psychologists themselves seem to recognize this, since they (at least, some of them) have stated that the experiments with conditioned reflexes provide a solid foundation for associative psychology. (Ibid [1955]: 251)

And yet, we owe to this great physiologist, not his common association with behaviourism, but his concept of signalling stimuli. As Anokhin (1968) described it, Pavlov […] rated very highly the ability of the conditioned reaction to act as a “signal” reaction or, as he expressed it many times, a reaction of “warning character.” It is this “warning” character which accounts for the profound historical significance of the conditioned reflex. (Ibid [1974): 140)

Indeed, in contradiction to the deterministic stimulus-response scheme, Pavlov (1927) found that signalling stimuli do not always trigger the same reaction and that the same reaction can be initiated by different stimuli; thus, there was no one-to-one correspondence between stimulus and response. Moreover, unlike the classical behaviourism’s peripheralism, Pavlov (1927) insisted that “‘signalization’ is the function of the cerebral hemispheres that enable a delicate balance between the animal and its environment than is afforded by the inborn reflex alone” (Ibid: 16). Thus, if the cerebral hemispheres were removed from the dog, “the number of stimuli evoking reflex reaction is considerably diminished; those remaining are of an elemental, generalized nature, and act at a very short range” (Ibid: 13). This meant that unconditioned reflexes were necessary but not sufficient for animal adaptation if the signalling stimuli coming from distance receptors (smell, sight and sound) were lost. Consequently the dynamic equilibrium between the inner forces of the animal system and the external forces in its environment has become elemental as compared with the exquisite adaptability of the normal animal, and the simpler balance is obviously inadequate to life. (Ibid.)


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It is clear that Pavlov was not advocating for peripheral processes alone (receptors-effectors) but was assuming the full central-peripheral duality. Thus, the function of signalization or anticipation would be impaired when separating the cerebral hemispheres from distant receptors. In fact, this explains Pavlov’s (1932) furious reaction to Lashley’s (1930) “merciless judgement of the reflex theory [which] divorces itself from the actual facts absolutely […] How can it possibly be an obstacle to the progress of studying the organism in general and the cerebral functions in particular?” (Ibid: 101, 103). The theory of reflexes divides this general activity of the organism into separate activities, connecting them with internal as well as external influences, and then unites them anew, one to another, which brings us to a more and more clear understanding of the total activity of the organism, as well as of the interaction of the organism with surrounding conditions. (Ibid.)

So I think it is about time to stop associating Pavlov’s conditioned reflex with passive reflexes. Instead, he was interested in Sechenov’s cerebral reflexes and is the founder of the physiology of higher nervous activity rather than the forerunner of behaviourism. Furthermore, in the preface of the first Russian edition of his work on conditioned reflexes, Pavlov (1923) acknowledged the debt to Sechenov (1863b) and applauded the work of early behaviourists such as Thorndike (1898) for “having made the first steps along this path”. However, “the Americans […] set out on this new path of investigation in quite a different manner from us […] All our work developed out of physiology, so it has continued directly in that path […] in the realms of facts, conceptions and terminology of the central nervous system” (1923: 40). Let us finish this section describing conditioned reflexes a bit better in order to distinguish them from inborn or instinctive reactions. Unlike innate reflexes, which are related to fixed motor patterns common to a species, conditioned reflexes are individual reflexes “since they vary from animal to animal in a species, and even in the same animal at different times and under different conditions” (Pavlov 1927: 25). Furthermore, We recognize them in ourselves and in other people or animals under such names as “education”, “habits”, and “training” and all of these are really nothing more than the results of an establishment of new nervous connections during the post -natal existence of the organism. They are, in actual fact, links connecting definite extraneous stimuli with their definite responsive reactions. (Ibid. 26)

Finally, conditioned reflexes are logically consistent with the concept of time intrinsic to cybernetic systems since signalling stimuli are those that prevail after the last has been established rather than the responding to the whole past sequence experienced during the lifespan of an organism. In other words, the conditioned reflexes are founded on the present-past temporal duality rather than on the time past peculiar to living systems.

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3.1.3  The Involuntary Nervous System Just like Bernard and Sechenov had made major contributions advancing our knowledge of the two major divisions of the nervous system (PNS and CNS) and Sherrington and Pavlov of the voluntary movements (spinal and cerebral), Walter Holbrook Gaskell (1847–1914) and John Newport Langley (1852–1925) would establish our understanding of the involuntary or autonomic nervous system, as we called it today. The former discovered the existence of two antagonistic systems of cells forming a peripheral network regulating the involuntary muscles of vertebrates. The nerve cells belong to two nervous systems, the sympathetic and enteral systems, and are called intrinsic or extrinsic […] The nervous control is normally dependent upon the integrity of two antagonistic systems of peripheral neurons but can also be maintained by one of these systems alone. (Gaskell 1916 [1920]: 119–121)

However, we owe to Langley the main division of the autonomic nervous system between the excitatory sympathetic and inhibitory parasympathetic systems that control the function of organs, muscles, and glands. In addition, he suggested the term somatic “for the general body nerves which did not belong to the autonomic system” (Langley 1921: 10) as a further division within the PNS. “The peripheral nerves, then, excluding the olfactory, optic and auditory, may be classified as follows” (Fig. A.1). If we compare this classification with the original grand division of the nervous system, the somatic system does not seem to perform any of the general functions other than providing the afferent and efferent pathways connecting receptors and effectors. Thus, rather than considering the somatic system as connecting the CNS with the receptors and effectors, as it is usually the case, I think it makes more sense to see it as connecting the CNS and the PNS with the external and internal environment. This connection is essential to understand the stable equilibrium between the

Fig. A.1  Langley’s classification tree (reproduced from Langley 1921)


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organism and its environment (internal and external). So far, however, we only understand one side of that equation, namely, the stable internal environment regulated by the autonomic nervous system, thanks to the work of Walter Cannon (1932). But maybe there is another mechanism in the CNS enabling the stable equilibrium between the organism and its external environment? Well, let us start first with Cannon’s concept of homeostasis to round up the involuntary nervous system before we search for some cues that suggest another form of stable equilibrium related to the voluntary nervous system. Even if Bernard was the founder of experimental physiology, his concept of the stability of the internal environment had gone unnoticed until the 1920s when physiologists started to take seriously his suggestion and search for the physiological mechanism that could explain it. It was becoming more evident that the autonomic nervous system was contributing to that stable equilibrium through the existence of antagonistic agencies contributing to the “constant internal conditions” or homeostasis, as Cannon (1929) named the internal equilibrium of the organism. Bernard (1865) had described the internal environment as the matrix fluid (blood) containing the physicochemical compounds (water, oxygen, temperature, and nutrients) that acted as “organized anatomical units” which “have the power of being irritable, reacting under the influence of certain stimuli” (Ibid [1949]: 77–78). However, according to him, those stimuli did not come from the external environment since “the functions of man and of the higher animals seem to us, indeed, free and independent of the physico-chemical conditions of the environment, because its actual stimuli are found in the inner, organic, liquid environment” (Ibid: 79). Well, Cannon (1929) agreed with Bernard that there was a mechanism regulating the stability of the internal conditions of the organism, the homeostatic processes, but classified them according to whether they were related to “material supplies for cellular needs” or “environmental factors affecting cellular activity”. In so doing, he was introducing a homeostatic process dependent on external conditions which, of course, contradicted Bernard’s idea of the “free and independent life” of higher animals. Cannon was, in fact, replacing that idea by a mechanism that included the whole animal kingdom instead of postulating three kinds of life in which the external conditions were becoming less dominant. Instead, the regulation of the autonomic system was dependent on the changes in the external environment. In fact, before suggesting the existence of that homeostatic process, Cannon (1915) had already linked the fight or flight response in animals to the sympathetic nervous system. “Fear, rage and pain, and the pangs of hunger are all primitive experiences which human beings share with lower animals” (Ibid [1927]: preface). Well, “all body changes which occur in the intense emotional states – such as fear and fury – occur as results of activity in this [sympathetic] division” (Ibid: 268). But it was in The Wisdom of the Body (1932) where Cannon argued for the role of sympathetic system in homeostasis as a “middle division” that “acts promptly and directly to prevent serious changes of the internal environment” (Ibid: 248). The other two divisions of the parasympathetic system, the sacral and cranial, “operate only indirectly and somewhat remotely to assure a constant state” (Ibid.) What he meant by “indirectly” and “remotely” was that the parasympathetic system was not

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influenced directly by the external conditions of the organism. And he mentioned several examples suggesting the role of the sympathetic system in protecting the internal stability of the organism, for instance, from vigorous muscular work, external cold and injury, or reduced oxygen supply, by means of a rectifying process to reach a stable equilibrium. And to demonstrate the importance of the sympathetic mechanism, he reviewed some experiments severing that division from the autonomic nervous systems showing that animals do not die but lose their capacity to regulate body temperature when exposed to cold or heat. In short, the stable equilibrium between the internal and the external environment is mediated by the sympathetic system constantly offsetting the imbalance. Furthermore, Cannon’s work on homeostasis confirmed the grand functional division of the nervous system between voluntary and involuntary activity. Indeed, “nervous system is divisible into two main parts, the one acting outwardly and affecting the world about us, and the other acting inwardly and helping to preserve a constant and steady condition in the organism itself” (1932: 25–26). And yet, his physiological division was eventually replaced by the anatomical division between the CNS and the PNS though some aspects of the nervous system did not quite fit within this scheme. The cranial nerves, for instance, belong to the PNS, except for the olfactory, optic, and auditory because, according to Langley (1921), they are part of the CNS.  Likewise, the somatic system does not perform an involuntary function but belongs to the PNS. It seems that the further anatomic divisions of the nervous system were overshadowing its functional division. This will go in crescendo in the early 1950s with the birth of the physiology of nerve fibres (Eccles 1953) and of neural circuits in late 1960s (Eccles, Ito and Szentágothai 1967) both under the spell of the synapse as the functional unit of behaviour despite a Soviet neurophysiologists suggested to focus on functional systems. 3.1.4  The Physiology of Functional Systems Indeed, Pyotr Anokhin tried to counteract this emerging trend proposing the concept of the functional system to close the gap between “lower” synaptic and higher nervous activity. The ever-increasing emphasis on the finer neurophysiological processes have widened this gap even more between detailed studies of neurophysiological processes and the integrated activity of the organism as an homeostatic unity. (Anokhin 1968 [1974]: 194)

In addition, the functional system was linked to the notion of reverse afferentation or feedback, later associated with cybernetics. In his own words, “the theory of functional system, formulated by us 1935 (Anokhin, 1935), foreshadowed the development of cybernetic concepts by Norbert Wiener some thirteen years later (Wiener, 1948)” (Ibid [1974]: preface). In particular, unlike the linear reflex arc (stimulus-response), the information that results from behaviour is feedback to the organism. More importantly, the functional system is the functional unit of behaviour. Indeed, unlike the neural circuits in the brain, “the functional system is always


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a selective central-peripheral formation and not merely a formation of the central nervous system per se” (my emphasis, Ibid: 190). This concept provides the relevant functional unit to analyse the major integrative systems within the nervous system. The physiology of functional mechanisms was the key to round up our understanding of the higher nervous activity related to the voluntary nervous system enabling the equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Later in this section, I will suggest that there is some evidence suggesting that the cerebellar system is the counterpart of the sympathetic system regulating external equilibrium and contributing to adaptive behaviour. Before leaving Anokhin’s work, I should mention that he related Sechenov discovery of central inhibition to adaptive behaviour. “Internal inhibition plays a role in the development of most specific forms of adaptive behaviour in both animals and mans” (Ibid: 255). Following Pavlov (1963: 173), It originates under definite conditions in places where it has not previously existed, it fluctuates in intensity, it disappears if conditions are changed. In all this it differs from the more or less constant and stable inhibition of the lower segments of the central nervous system and has, therefore, been called internal to distinguish it from the latter (external). However, it would have been more correct to call it “elaborated conditioned inhibition. (cited in Anokhin 1968[1974]: 262)

This conditioned inhibition will be crucial to understand the stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. But before we develop this hypothesis any further, let us continue our review of the discoveries in the physiology of functional mechanisms. Contrary to the emerging paradigm in neuroscience (Fuster 2003), we are not going to identify cerebral networks firing together, the so-called cell assemblies, since the essence of functional mechanism is that they are centralperipheral processes. So which ones have already been discovered in neurophysiology? Well, we owe the identification of “three major integrative systems” to two great historians of this field, Mary Brazier (1963) and Louise Marshall (1998): (1) the specific or thalamocortical system, (2) the non-specific or ascending reticular system, and (3) the limbic system. And their physiological functions are described as follows. (1) transmission of the sense-labeled impulses bearing the message from the periphery to the brain; (2) awareness that the message has arrived; (3) storage of and ability to retrieve the message. (Brazier 1963: 748–749)

While Brazier believes that these are “the three functions necessary to the conscious state” (Ibid: 748), Marshall sees them as “the three great systems on which the integrated behavior of higher animals depends” (1998: 249). I would suggest that the functional mechanisms related to the voluntary nervous system do not parallel an internal state in the brain because the organism is not separate from its environment. Furthermore, they need to account for all adaptive behaviour, such as instinctive behaviour, which means that the limbic system may well be more accurately associated with emotion that to memory. But what about the adaptive behaviour acquired during the lifespan of an organism? Again, this gap in our knowledge suggests that another functional mechanism is missing which may be related to the

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mysterious role of cerebellar system whose available scientific evidence will be reviewed later. The Limbic System When discussing the sympathetic nervous system, we mentioned that Cannon (1915) had related this subdivision of the autonomic system to the fight or flight response in animals. [Feelings of hostility] are the powerful emotions and the deeply ingrained instinctive reactions which invariably precede combat […] the physiological provisions for fierce struggle are found not only in the bodies of lower animals, that must hunt and kill in order to live, but also in human beings. (Ibid [1927]: 286–288)

Well, it was one of his advanced pupils, Philip Bard (1928), who discovered the locus of “sham rage” following his suggestion that it “closely resembles the behaviour of the infuriated normal animal and is accompanied by widespread sympathetic discharges”. It turned out that the region requisite for sham rage (I have always preferred the term ‘quasirage’) is situated in the caudal half of the hypothalamus […] I came to the conclusion that the hypothalamus is not an ‘autonomic center’, but rather a part of the brain that contains neural mechanisms requisite for complicated patterns of behaviour - such as the display of emotion and defence against heat and cold  - in which there are autonomic components. (Bard 1973: 10)

A decade later, the microanatomist Papez (1937) would propose a neural circuit consisting of “the hypothalamus, the gyrus cinguli, the hippocampus, and their interconnections. Taken as a whole, this ensemble of structures is proposed as representing theoretically the anatomic basis of emotion” (Ibid: 103). Interestingly, Papez talked about two aspects of emotion, “a way of acting and a way of feeling”. He claimed that the former had already been demonstrated by Bard’s (1928) experiments linking it to the hypothalamus, but that the latter, given that it involves a “subjective emotional experience”, must be related to the cerebral cortex. “This circuit would explain how emotion may arise in two ways: as a result of psychic activity and as a consequence of hypothalamic activity” (Ibid:103–104). Elaborating further on Papez’s views, the neurologist MacLean (1949, 1952) suggested that “the phylogenetically old brain (classically known as the rhinencephalon and arbitrarily referred to in this paper as the ‘visceral brain’ is largely concerned with visceral and emotional functions” (1949: 351). And, after a few years, it was clear to him. Evidence is gradually accumulating that the various internal and external senses are represented in the limbic system (cf. above and Gerard et al. 1936; Robinson and Lennox 1951). As a working hypothesis, it can be inferred that the limbic system is […] a visceral brain that interprets and gives expression to its incoming information in terms of feeling. (1952: 415)

Therefore, this is our first functional system which is not a neural circuit located in the brain but a central-peripheral mechanism discharging “quasi-rage” reactions as a result of stimuli reaching the hypothalamus and involving autonomic


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components. In particular, the limbic system receives sensory inputs from the interoceptors and exteroceptors and sends impulses to the sympathetic system releasing eliciting instinctive behaviour. Finally, though MacLean (1990) proposed a “triune brain” theory distinguishing between the “reptilian” complex, the “paleomammalian” complex (limbic system) and the “neomammalian” complex (neocortex), as different stages in the evolution of the human brain, the functionally equivalent limbic system is also found in reptiles and birds. Furthermore, Sudnicka (1894) demonstrated that fishes and amphibians also have a homologous cerebral cortex. This also shows that functional mechanisms should not be identified with the neuroanatomy of the higher animals because these are physiological mechanisms common to all animal with an environment. The Thalamocortical System The first to notice the pathways between the thalamus and the cortex was Carpenter (1839) in his textbook on comparative physiology. These connections were confirmed experimentally by Ramón y Cajal (1903) and Sach (1909), but it was not until the 1930s that the notion of circuit or feedback between the cortex and the thalami was established (Brouwer 1933, Lorente de No 1938). In terms of the function of the thalamus, though it was originally described as the optic thalamus in antiquity, physiologists were divided until the end of the nineteenth century either relating it to movement or to unified sensory inputs and, thus, “root of consciousness” (Burdach 1826). However, it was not until the work of Monakow (1895), showing that the thalamus and the prefrontal cortex were involved in the auditory and visual functions and that its sensory function was demonstrated. Indeed, the thalamus relays the sensory inputs from distant receptors to the cortex as it was confirmed histologically by Ramón y Cajal (1909) and later by the thalamocortical connections found by Barenne and McCulloch (1938). Finally, the function of the thalamus received its most thorough treatment in Walker’s (1938) The Primate Thalamus. This discussion […] has emphasised the complex function of the thalamus. It is the mediator to which all stimuli from the outside world congregate and become modified and distributed to subcortical or cortical centers so that the individual may make adequate adjustments to the constantly changing environment. The thalamus thus holds the secret of much that goes on within the cerebral cortex. (Ibid: 277)

Again, this is a functional mechanism connecting the organism to its environment thanks to the loop connecting peripheral (distant receptors) and central (afferent pathways from thalamus to cortex) processes contributing to adaptive behaviour. As we saw from Pavlov’s (1927) experiments on conditioned reflexes, the prevailing reaction of the organism is dependent on the establishment of signalling stimuli from its environment. At this point it is important to remind the reader that the split between central and peripheral processes results in the separation of the organism from its environment. Thus, the central dogma of cognitive science that the environment is an internal model in the brain is, in fact, equivalent to assuming a centralperiphery chasm.

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Ascending Reticular System When Brazier (1963) introduced the three candidate functional systems, the role of the ascending reticular system was described as the “awareness that the message has arrived” which might suggest the image of the cortex as being the “seat of consciousness” receiving the messages from the rest of the body. However, awareness in animals is not a parallel internal mental state that emerges when interoceptive or exteroceptive stimuli reach the cortex. Instead, there is a functional mechanism in the brain stem described as “arousal” that acts as a filtering process of incoming stimuli “waking the brain”. This filtering process, however, does not necessary mean that it is necessarily inhibiting because it is also facilitating certain stimuli passing through (Allen 1932). But who discovered the ascending reticular system? Well, though the groundwork was provided by Dempsey and Morison (1942), who suggested “a second and diffuse thalamocortical system involving the dorsal medial nucleus and sensory cortex” (Marshall and Magoun 1998: 217), it is attributed to Moruzzi and Magoun (1949), who identified the arousal effect of stimulation of the brain stem reticular formation in anesthetized cats by combining two new techniques, stereotaxis and electroencephalography (EEG). The evidence given above points to the presence in the brain stem of a system of ascending reticular relays, whose direct stimulation activates or desynchronizes the EEG, replacing high-voltage slow waves with low-voltage fast activity. This effect is exerted generally upon the cortex and is mediated, in part at least, by the diffuse thalamic projection system. (Moruzzi and Magoun 1949: 468)

Despite the locus of this functional mechanism, it should not be confused with its anatomical structure. As Brodal (1969) emphases, “It should be made perfectly clear that the ‘activating system’ is a functional concept, the ‘reticular system’ a morphological one, and it has been obvious for many years these do not correspond” (Ibid 1969: 306). Moreover, though the function of the brain stem reticular formation found in higher mammals is clear, “its boundaries and functional components have never been sharply defined” (Marshall and Magoun 1998: 266). In addition, this arousal mechanism is intrinsic to all animals with an environment, and thus it must have a functionally equivalent anatomical structure in lower animals given its contribution to adaptive behaviour. The Cerebellar System Anatomically speaking, the cerebellar system is well represented throughout the animal kingdom, something that was already clear from Willis’s (1681) comparative studies and is also found in invertebrates such as the cephalopod (Young 1976). However, physiologically speaking, the story is more complicated. Originally, it was assumed that the cerebellum was involved in the “involuntary” movements as opposed to the voluntary movements carried out by the cerebrum (Willis 1664). The first ablation experiments on animals showed that it affected the motor system (Rolando 1809) and equilibrium (Magendie 1825), but it was not until Flourens (1842) that a consensus emerged linking the cerebellum to the coordination of


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movement rather than to its production. Thus, voluntary movements originated in the cerebrum and the cerebellum controlled the movement of the spinal cord and muscles. And, tracing the afferent pathways leading to the cerebellum, Sherrington (1906) suggested it was the “head ganglion of the proprioceptive system”. Later, in the 1930s and 1940s, the stimulation (electrophysiological) experiments of the cerebellum started by Adrian (1935) would change this picture. Gerard et al. (1936) were the first to notice in anesthetized animals the evoked potentials picked up by the cerebellum coming from auditory and light stimuli. This contradicted the assumption that all the afferent connections came from the proprioceptor system exclusively, since the cerebellum was picking up other sensory inputs. Indeed, after reviewing all the morphological evidence from mammals and submammals, Larsell (1937) identified two fundamental divisions, the flocculonodular lobe and the corpus cerebelli, the former receiving fibres mainly from the vestibular system and the latter from the proprioceptive system. In the case of the corpus cerebelli, in addition to its connection with trigeminal fibres, he identified several tracts within the central nervous systems: spinocerebellar, olivocerebellar, and cerebro-cerebellar. And he also found other evoked potentials in the cerebellum from the stimulation of peripheral sensory afferents such as the sciatic and saphenous nerves (Dow 1939), the skin (Dow and Anderson 1942), and the limbs (Adrian 1943). The question now was whether those sensory inputs reaching the cerebellum came directly from exteroceptors or indirectly via cerebral projections. Dow (1942) found no point-to-point relationship between the respective functional divisions after stimulating the cerebral cortex, but he did find in monkeys some areas connected with lateral lobes and “an invasion by cortico-ponto-cerebellar fibers of vermian lobes”. Thus, the cerebro-cerebellar communication channel could be a possibility. A crucial discovery was made when Snider and Stowell (1944) found in decerebrated animals that impulses from end-organs (tactile, auditory, and visual) reached the cerebellum and that there was a total overlap between the auditory and sensory areas suggesting an audiovisual area in the cerebellum. This meant that, unlike the proprioceptors, exteroceptors communicated sensory inputs from the external world to the cerebellum and the auditory and visual stimuli were transformed into an audiovisual synthesis or an afferent synthesis, to use Anokhin’s term. Finally, the mystery of the communication system around the cerebellum was clarified by Snider (1950) who discovered a dual projection to cerebellar areas coming both from end-organs and sensory and motor areas of the cerebral cortex. However, instead of interpreting it as being part of the information circuit between the organism and its environment, Snider saw a reverberating circuit in which “cerebellar areas project back to the cerebral receiving areas” (Ibid: 206), that is, a “cerebrocerebellocerebral circuit of functionally related areas in which both the cerebrum and the cerebellum could potentiate the action of the other” (Ibid: 212). In summary, these same cerebellar areas project back on the tactile, auditory and visual areas of the cerebrum. Previously, the projection of the cerebellum onto the motor areas of the cerebrum has been recognized, but now that a projection to the various sensory (as well as motor)

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areas has been established, a much broader interpretation of cerebellar function must be used than has hitherto been the case in the past. (Ibid: 212)

So what was Snider’s proposal? Basically, in addition to the old concept of motor control around the proprioceptive system, the cerebellar function contributed to the reverberating circuit around the cerebral cortex. Thus, the cerebellum projects back to the associated areas in the cerebral cortex creating a cerebro-cerebellar closed loop, “which could add to or subtract from the total effect of the afferent volleys passing to the different functional areas” (Ibid: 212). Unfortunately, the connection between the end-organs and the cerebellum is overshadowed by a cerebro-cerebellar communication system and, thus, the environment is excluded from that information circuit. Accordingly, the cerebellum does not contribute to the equilibrium between the organism and its environment, instead its function consists “in dampening and in potentiating associated sensory and motor centres alike. The cerebellum thus becomes the “great modulator of neurologic function” (Ibid: 219). Anyway, in addition to the dual projection, we also owe to Snider the topological mapping of the cerebellar cortex into different sensory areas which proves that there is an overlapping between auditory and visual areas (distant stimuli) and possibly between tactile and proprioceptive areas (near stimuli). If so, this increases the scope of the afferent synthesis in the cerebellum including proprioceptive and exteroceptive stimuli which, however, exclude gustatory and olfactory stimuli though this could also imply that these senses are more linked to fixed reactions rather than to adaptive behaviour. But how could this cerebellar mechanism work? Well, the most likely physiological mechanism is that the afferent synthesis picked up by the cerebellum is, in fact, a reverse afferentation from the environment reporting the results from behaviour. Following Anokhin (1968), “the results become stimuli for performing other acts until the achievement of the desired adaptation” (Ibid [1974]: 227). Indeed, “reverse afferentation informs about these results of completed action, enabling the organism to evaluate the success of the action performed” (Ibid: 232). Furthermore, given that it is well known that the cerebellum performs an inhibitory function, it is tempting to think that cerebellar inhibition is, in fact, an “elaborated conditioned inhibition”, to use Pavlov expression. If so, the last reverse afferentation of a successful behaviour would establish the conditioned inhibition regulating the equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Further support evidence of the existence of this physiological mechanism is provided by the experiments of Holst and Mittelstaedt (1950) on insects (fly Eristalis) and fish (Gymnocorymbus and Hyphessobrycon) also suggesting a “reafference” between the periphery and the central nervous system in which the “‘voluntary movement’ proves to be dependent upon the afferent return stream which it evokes!” (Ibid: 144). According to them, the reafference principle explains in a uniform manner particular phenomena throughout the CNS from the lowest processes (passive and active positioning of the limbs, relationship between different parts of the body) to those at very high level (spatial orientation, percep-


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tual processes, sensory illusions), it provides the bridge between the lower levels of neurophysiology and higher behavioural theory. (Ibid: 171)

Another findings that they associate to the reafference principle is that it enables the animal to distinguish its movement from those of its surrounding environment, because it can recognize the “constancy of its own objective environment”, in addition to “the perception of an immobile environment when the eyes are moving (spatial constancy) and the perception of an object as retaining a particular size independent of distance (size constancy)” (Ibid: 172). In fact, in another paper written a few years later, Holst (1955) demonstrated that the size constancy of visually perceived objects could never be explained by peripheral process alone because “the constancy function […] is a process of a purely central kind” (Ibid: 191). However, we need both because functional mechanisms are the physiological counterpart of the central-periphery spatial duality. Indeed, the reverse afferentation from the environment resulting from behaviour would demonstrate that the organism and its environment are part of the same information circuit and, thus, that there is a feedback loop between simultaneous peripheral and central processes around the cerebellum which is responsible for adjustment. Thus, I believe that the physiological experiments (ablation, stimulation, and behavioural) support the claim that another major functional mechanism exists which is crucial to understand the voluntary functions related to the central nervous system acting outwards. In short, the adjustment function of the cerebellar system contributes to the equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Now that we have a better understanding of the last physiological mechanism, it is time to draw a table (Table A.1) with all of them and turn to the next subject matter in the prehistory of cybernetics.

3.2 Psychology Historians associate the beginnings of experimental psychology to Fechner’s (1860) psychophysics inspired by Weber (1834). An exception is the psychologist Egon Brunswik (1952) who found that “psychology uniquely lends itself to entanglement with dualistic metaphysics” (Ibid [1955]: 659). Indeed, that metaphysical dualism was not the mind-body problem, but the classical division in modern philosophy between rationalism and empiricism corresponding to introspectionism and sensationalism. Historically speaking, psychology gradually moved from a “self-contained form of central encapsulation […] to a position out of center in the direction of the Table A.1 Centralperiphery mechanisms

Physiological mechanisms Limbic system The thalamocortical system Ascending reticular system Cerebellar system

Emotion Sensation Arousal Adjustment

Sensory-motor Sensory (specific) Sensory (diffuse) Sensory-motor

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sensory and the motor periphery” (Ibid: 660–661). In particular, the first transition gave birth to experimental psychology in the second half of the ninetieth century. Brunswik claims that the progress in psychology is akin to the “Copernican revolutions” in science, that is, “historical steps in the separation of subject and object” (Ibid: 666). They define a succession of increasingly threatening blows to the pride of the ego; in psychoanalytic terms, the history of science is one of “retreating narcissism” or disentanglement of the objective from the subjective and wishful. (Ibid: 667)

Accordingly, the history of modern psychology can be seen as continuous turning away from subjectivism in the direction of objectivism. And the crucial revolution was leaving behind introspectionism altogether to establish functionalism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Similarly, another historian of psychology, Robert Woodworth, agrees that the psychology of 1900 is a different story. The structural psychology of Wundt (1874), in Germany, and of Titchener (1898), in America, was replaced by the following list of contemporary schools that assume functional psychology (Table A.2). However, unlike Brunswik, he did not see that functional psychology replaced the introspective method given that a simple form of this method, such as the method of impression, is always implicit in the observation of empirical facts. Is this form of introspection really any different from our ordinary objective observation of external facts? Those psychologists who insist always on objective methods dislike the method of impression as if it were tainted with subjectivism. But it seems perfectly objective to the person who receives the impression and gives the verbal report. (Ibid: 19)

In fact, the distinction between the subjective and the objective conception of psychology seems to be grounded no so much on the type of experimental method used but more on the different definitions that have been given regarding its subject matter. Structural psychology was named as such due to its interest in determining the elements of conscious experience, whereas functional psychology studied behaviour. Consequently, two definitions of psychology were given: psychology either as the science of consciousness or as the science of behaviour. According to Wundt (1892), “psychology has to investigate that which we call internal experience […] in contradiction to the objects of external experience, which form the subject matter of natural science” (cited in Woodworth 1948: 22).

Table A.2  Schools converging towards functional psychology Schools Psychoanalysis Personalistic and organismic psychologies Purposive or hormic psychology Gestalt psychology Behaviourism

Origin Austria about 1900 Germany and America about 1900 Britain in 1908 Germany in 1912 America in 1912

Focus Desire Individual as a whole Purposive activity Perception Motor activity


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However, in 1896, he would rename “internal experience” as “immediate experience” to accommodate the different elements of conscious experience since feelings originate in the organism but sensations seem to come from the external environment. Of course, defining experience in this way meant that the use of the introspective method by structural psychology did not differ much from the method of observation of functional psychology since both schools were using the same experimental method. So what is the difference between these schools of psychology then? According to Woodworth (1948), “primary functionalism starts with the results accomplished and asks by what process they are accomplished […] its interest in conscious experience is secondary to its interest in functions” (Ibid: 36). Anyway, despite the emphasis given to conscious experience versus accomplished results, most psychologists seem to agree that the study of mental activity is the proper subject matter of psychology which is a way to combine the two aspects of the science of consciousness and of behaviour in one single definition. More importantly, “all psychologists […] whether they speak of behaviour or of conscious experience or of activity in general, they all have before them the individual in his relation to the environment” (Ibid: 254). According to Woodworth, this is “the middle of the road” that unities the different contemporary schools of psychology in a “broadly conceived functional school”. However, the assumption of the organisms with its environment is not something limited to psychology given that we have also seen it in physiology in the case of Sechenov (1861) and Cannon (1932). If so, how does physiology differ from psychology then? Some psychologists like Watson (1925) agree that psychology assumes the environmental adjustment of the organism and that physiology is its closest companion. However, “physiology is interested in the functions of the parts of the animal […] while [psychology] is intensively interested in all of the functions of the parts, it is intrinsically interested in what the whole animals will do” (Ibid: 11). By contrast, Hunter (1932) makes the following statement: “Psychology, except in the case of receptor processes, emphasizes extrinsic functions, while physiology specializes in the study of functions which are intrinsic to the various organic structures” (Ibid: 16). To clarify the difference, he suggests the following functions. The functions of the nervous system, the lungs, the muscles, the liver, the kidneys, and the heart are so highly specific to these organs that no other structure can take over the function. In the activities studied by the psychologist there is on the other hand a large amount of vicarious functioning of one part of the body for another. (Ibid: 18).

The difference between the intrinsic and extrinsic functions seems to correspond to a difference between subcutaneous and supercutaneous adaptations. The organism in its subcutaneous adaptations is much more highly integrated than it is in its supercutaneous adaptations, that is to say, there is a muck closer interdependence of behavior inside than outside of the organism. (Ibid: 21)

In other words, psychology is maximally concerned with externally observable behaviour which, again, does not really distinguish psychology from physiology because acting outwardly in the external environment is the general function of the central nervous system. Does it mean we cannot clarify the subject matter of

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psychology any further and, hence, should retain an eclectic definition? Doing so would mean accepting that psychology is the study of consciousness and of behaviour in general which is far from a scientific focus of inquiry. Fortunately, it was Brunswick (1937) who provided the subject matter of psychology. Psychology, is therefore, a science of relational achievements at the command of the organism, of well established far-reaching (cognitive and effective) success  – quantifiable in terms of its “objects attained”. (Ibid: 260)

Indeed, organisms achieve something in their environment, and the stimulusresponse scheme seems to be the most appropriate framework to study psychological phenomena. However, this is not the linear deterministic S-R concept advocated by behaviourism in which a given stimulus always triggers the same response. No, cybernetic systems are self-determined systems. Now that we have identified both the subject matter and the conceptual framework of psychology, we can trace the history of the study of achievement from its early beginnings in the nineteenth century. As Brunswick (1952) says, when we focus on achievement, “variables located in certain ‘areas,’ ‘layers,’ or ‘regions’ of the environment or of the organism seem more often to be focal than those in others” (Ibid: 679). Indeed, the history of experimental psychology can be seen more appropriately as a move from proximal to distal regions within the stimulus-response scheme rather than from introspectionism (subjectivism) to functionalism (objectivism). However, Brunswick also conceives the history of psychology during the first half of the twentieth century as a shift from the peripheral to the central areas within the organism. But this does not seem to be the case because it would mean accepting the separation of the organism from its environment when that relationship is what defines functionalism. Ironically, if we look at the history of cognitive science originating in the mid-1950s, this shift did occur and meant accepting the “centralperipheral chasm”. Fortunately, that chapter does not belong to the prehistory of cybernetics. 3.2.1  The Birth of Psychology It is Wundt (1874) who is usually credited as the founder of modern psychology despite the first experiments were carried out by Weber (1829–1834) and Fechner (1860) who formalized them into the so-called Weber-Fechner Law. Yet, if psychology as a science focuses on achievement within the stimulus-response scheme, Weber and Fechner do deserve this merit as they investigated that subject matter though only from one side proximate stimulation. Weber, for instance, conducted his experimental research on cutaneous and muscular senses in order to find a relation between their stimulation and the sensation perceived by the subject of the experiment. To his surprise, there was no one-to-one correlation between the intensity of the stimulus and the sensation but a constant ratio instead, the “just-noticeable-difference”. Inspired by this finding, Fechner wanted to extend those


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experiments to all the senses to discover a mathematical relationship between stimuli and sensations believing that there was a psychophysical identity. The assumption was that sensations were correlated to stimuli in as much as sensation was a constant function of stimulation, the constancy hypothesis. 3.2.2  Structural Psychology In the case of Wundt, he wrote the Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874) before establishing in the University of Leipzig in 1879 and setting supposedly the first laboratory of psychology separate from that of physiology. He was ready to demonstrate the use of the introspective method in psychology. Looking at the work of his experimental predecessors, he realized that despite aiming to find a correlation between stimuli and sensations “no one, however, had hitherto turned these results to account for a theory of consciousness” (Ibid: preface). “The task now assigned to the science [psychology] is that of the interpretation of conscious phenomena by their reference to physiological conditions” (Ibid: 8–9). So what did Wundt discover in this psychological experiments? “The elements of mental life”, the objective elements and the subjective complements of mental life, that is, those coming from without, sensations, and those originating from within, feelings. His psychological method, however, was not applicable to higher mental processes, according to him, which are only accessible by means of the historical method. This point is important because we normally associate introspection with internal experiences when, in fact, for Wundt it meant reporting immediate experiences even though he had previously used internal experiences to distinguish the domain of psychology from that of natural science. Furthermore, the adjustment of the organism to its environment was also of interest to Wundt. Conscious experiences were not independent from the responses of the organism since both mental life and organic life were part of the psychophysical process. Physiology investigates the organic process that starts with a stimulus received by the sense organs that reaches the brain and that ends in the muscles with a response. Likewise, psychology studies, by means of introspection, the mental process that runs in parallel to the organic process. If these were overlapping processes, they had to coincide somehow and somewhere. Indeed, Wundt postulated a one-to-one correspondence between the excitations of the cortex and conscious experiences. Moreover, assuming that parallelism also meant that if the physiological process ends with response, the psychological process had to be extended beyond perception to cover the counterpart between stimulus and response. So his proposal was a tripartite sequence in which conscious awareness was the bridge between perception and will. This suggested that conscious experience followed from the stimulus. However, he was proven wrong by the same school of psychology he founded and by the very same experimental method he promoted. “Exner and Cattell suggested that the reaction-time experiment measured in the practised subject

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something strongly analogous to a reflex […] not a train of successive processes” (Heidbreder 1933: 90). Furthermore, We find, further, grounds for assuming that the cortex is not concerned and that perception and willing are not factors of the reaction time. It is not necessary to perceive the stimulus before the motor centre can be excited; and the willing - not of necessity given in consciousness - is done before the stimulus occurs, and consists in setting the brain-parts concerned in a state of readiness. (Cattell 1886: 242)

A few years later, this would lead Cattell (1904) to question the core assumption of the structural school of psychology associated with the introspective method, the study of consciousness. I am not convinced that psychology should be limited to the study of consciousness as such […] the rather widespread notion that there is not psychology apart from introspection is refuted by the brute argument of accomplished fact. It seems to me that most of the research work that has been done by me or in my laboratory is nearly as independent of introspection as work in physics or zoology. (Ibid: 179–180)

Likewise, Ach (1905) analysed different reaction-time experiments using the introspective method and found that subjects could not report any conscious experience while performing the task. Therefore, the experimental method itself suggested a revision of Wundt’s notion of consciousness replacing internal awareness by immediate experience. Despite its shortcomings, the structural school furthered the scope of experimental psychology by focusing on achievement using the “systematic experimental introspection” to use Ach’s term. 3.2.3 Behaviourism Despite its scientific merits, the structural school of psychology would come under attack by behaviourism. As Watson (1919) wrote in his Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviourist, the reader will find no discussion of consciousness and no reference to such terms as sensation, perception, attention, will, image and the like. These terms are in good repute, but I have found that I can get along without them both in carrying out investigations and in presenting psychology as a system to my students. (Ibid: Preface)

However, there was more common ground than is usually acknowledged. “Behaviourism is a natural science that takes the whole field of human adjustments as its own” (Ibid: 11). Indeed, the adoption of the stimulus-response concept implied assuming the organism with its environment. The main difference was that Watson denied that there was any need to postulate consciousness within that scheme. On the contrary, the science of behaviour had to learn from the science of mechanism, physiology, taking the linear reflex arc as its model. In the reflex arc, there are three components involved, the receptors, the neural conductors, and the effectors. In other words, any form of behaviour is a sensory-motor unit mediated by the nervous system. Where Wundt had introduced a tripartite conscious process from the stimuli


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to the response, Watson saw a unitary physiological process mediated by neural conductors. Watson (1919) went so far in grounding behaviourism on physiology that he devoted fifty percent of his matter work on topics such as “the receptor and their stimuli”, “neurophysiological basis of action” and “the organs of response: muscles and glands”. Indeed, he claimed that psychology’s “closest scientific companion is physiology” (Ibid: 11). In fact, that partnership came so close that some concepts became equivalent. The stimulus-response concept was identified with the receptoreffector mechanism. That is, the stimulus-response scheme was no longer coextensive with the organism with its environment. Our ‘environment’ our world of stimuli is thus not only one of external objects, sights, sounds and smells; it is one of internal objects as well hunger contractions, bladder distensions, palpitating heart, rapid breathing, muscular changes and the like. (Watson 1925: 59)

Besides sensory and motor physiology, behaviourism was interested in the functions of all the parts of the organism such as smooth muscles and glands. Thus, the field of psychology also included inward reactions coming from visceral stimuli. Furthermore, though Watson (1919) devoted a great amount of care to the neurophysiological basis of behaviour, he had a limited understanding of the nervous system when claiming that “the main fact about the central nervous system is that it affords a system of connections between sense organs and glands and muscles” (Ibid: 153–154). In other words, the most important physiological mechanisms for understanding behaviour were the receptors and effectors and the nervous system was a mere “conducting mechanism”. Watson had reduced the stimulus-response concept to the receptors-effectors when, in fact, the stimulus-response scheme always implies peripheral-central processes. The receptors-effectors are connected to the afferent-efferent pathways as much as the latter to the former because peripheral-central processes are reciprocal. So whenever the psychologist measures achievement using the stimulus-response framework, central-peripheral processes are already at work. Thus, it makes no sense to associate the stimulus-response with peripheral processes alone just like we cannot identify a response with an involuntary function of the autonomic nervous system acting inwardly. Furthermore, regarding the nervous system, Watson (1919) claimed that although the neurone is a unit of the nervous system it cannot function alone. It becomes functional from a conduction standpoint only when its connections are established. The functional unit of conduction is called a reflex arc. (Ibid: 117)

Therefore, all behaviour can be analysed in terms of the formation of sensorymotor connections within the central nervous system. “Neural impulses initiated in a sense organ have to pass either through the spinal cord or the brain or both of these organs before reaching the muscles and glands” (Ibid: 113). Those neural connections become fixed according to the frequency of stimulus-response reactions or adjustments. When Watson talks about “adjustments”, he means adjustments of the animal to the environment not between the organism and its environment. Thus, “when we

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come to study the mechanics of such adjustments we find that they depend upon the integration of reflexes connecting the receptors with the muscles and glands” (Ibid: 13). If the organism is always reacting to its environment, “psychology has as its goal to be able, given the stimulus, to predict the response or, seeing the reaction take place to state what the stimulus is that has called out the reaction” (1925: 16). In short, the stimulus-response scheme is reduced to a deterministic cause-effect concept in which the stimulus always precedes the response just like the effect necessarily follows the cause and, thus, the animal’s behaviour is always externally caused by the environment. However, it does no justice to the self-determined nature of cybernetic systems and explains Woodworth’s (1918) proposal to integrate the organisms within the stimulus-response scheme, the S-O-R.  Indeed, unlike the Watson’s S-R concept, the psychology’s conceptual scheme does not rule out the possibility of different responses to the same stimulus. Which of these reactions shall actually be aroused by a given stimulus depends not only on the stimulus, but also on the inner condition of the animal, which in turn is largely determined by the stimuli that have gone just before. (Ibid: 108)

Ironically, though Pavlov (1927) is generally been associated with behaviourism, his experiments suggested not only that a given stimulus did not always trigger the same response but also that a conditioned reflex is established by a signalling stimulus rather than by the frequency of stimulus-response reactions, as Watson’s (1919) believed. The conditioned reflex makes its appearance at first haltingly-that is, it will appear once and then disappear […] After a time it begins to appear regularly each time the bell is offered. In the best cases we get a conditioned reflex after about fourteen to thirty combined stimulations. (Ibid: 33–34)

Unfortunately, Pavlov work became associated with Watson’s peripheralism and environmentalism when, in fact, his concept of signalling stimuli implied the existence of peripheral-central processes when he claimed that “signalization” was a function of the cerebral hemispheres which afforded “a delicate balance between the animals and its environment” (Pavlov 1927: 16). Furthermore, this great physiologist also assumed an autonomous organism in postulating the “freedom reflex” to explain the unusable behaviour of a dog. Nothing more was done except to present the animal repeatedly with food at intervals of some minutes. It stood quietly enough at first, and ate quite readily, but as time went on it became excited and struggled to get out of the stand, scratching at the floor, gnawing the supports, and so on […] we could not work out a satisfactory solution of this strange behaviour, until it occurred to us at last that it might be the expression of a special freedom reflex, and that the dog simply could not remain quiet when it was constrained in the stand. (Ibid: 11)

Methodologically speaking, behaviourism contributed to sharpen the experimental method in psychology with its emphasis in using the observation of overt behaviour as the legitimate method. For instance, the experiments of Thorndike (1898), founder of experimental animal psychology and forerunner of behaviourism, discovered that “trial-and-error and accidental success” rather than sudden insight was


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how animals actually learned and proposed the law of effect which was a seminal contribution to the study of operant conditioning. Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other things been equal, be more firmly connected to the situation, so that, when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur. (Ibid [1911]: 244)

Basically, consistent with the present-past concept of time, the last response providing satisfaction becomes connected to the stimuli situation through a feedback loop between the organism and its environment. That is, if the rat in the maze is hungry, only the preceding behaviour pattern reaching the food and providing satisfaction will become established. Despite its merits in explaining habit learning, Watson would question the specificity of the law of effect claiming that it was subsumed under the more general law of association also formulated by Thorndike’s as the law of exercise. Any response to a situation will, other things been equal, be more strongly connected with the situation in proportion to the number of times it has been connected with that situation and to the average vigor and duration of the connections. (Ibid: 244)

This is the so-called molecular behaviourism in which stimulus-response connections are conceived in terms of the neurone theory and, thus, learning was interpreted physiologically. But it would be thanks to the animal experiments of Lashley (1929), a behaviourist with a neurophysiological bent, that this hypothesis was disproved by destroying the cortical tissue of rats after they had learned to perform a new task and showing how learning was positively correlated to the amount of cortex left, the principle of mass action. Again, psychology was treading the territory of physiology and suggesting that learning was explained by central processes when achievement implies functioning central-peripheral processes. But before we introduce our next contemporary school of psychology, I think it is important to deal with a possible misunderstanding that comes from not distinguishing properly psychological from physiological concepts. A good example is Watson’s (1919) identification of response with reactions. “In this volume the terms adjustment, response, and reaction are used almost interchangeably” (Ibid: 12). We cannot equate them because pure sensory functions such as sensation and arousal are also physiological reactions in the organism. Furthermore, we cannot exclude perception from psychology arguing that it is not behaviour without realizing that it is accounted for in stimulus-response scheme. Indeed, perception is also an achievement that can be investigated with the same conceptual framework as behaviour. 3.2.4  Gestalt Psychology Our next contemporary school represented by Wertheimer, Koffka, and Köhler would also launch an attack on the structural school that would, in turn, question something taken for granted by behaviourism and today’s brain science, connectionism or associationism. Even without knowing, this assumption was inherited

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from philosophy, in particular, from Hume, who was the first to formulate the laws of association of ideas in the eighteenth century. As Driesch (1925) noticed, “older psychology”, referring to the structural school, was grounded on “the law of association […] formed in analogy to mechanics” (Ibid: 6). Indeed, the law of association was a logical analogue of the principle of contiguity at the core of the modern world-hypothesis. Accordingly, the mind was conceived as an aggregate of ideas mutually connected just like the body as an aggregate of corpuscles in reciprocal interaction. In particular, Hume (1739) suggested that “the qualities, from which this association arises, and by which the mind is after this manner convey’d from one idea to another, are three, viz. RESEMBLANCE, CONTIGUITY in time and place, and CAUSE and EFFECT” (1738 [2000]: 13). These three laws of association explained every possible connexion of ideas in the mind. However, cause and effect would eventually fall from the list when associationism entered psychology through James Mill (1829), who dismissed all the laws except for contiguity. As a matter of fact, the principle of contiguity also entered physiology through Ramon y Cajal’s (1906) famous novel lecture entitled “The Structure and Connexions of Neurons” concluding that “nerve elements possess reciprocal relationships in contiguity but not in continuity”. Furthermore, in the case of Sherrington (1906), the “final common path” was a sequence of contiguous reflexes resulting from mutually interacting parts (allied and antagonistic reflexes). But it was the associationism in psychology that Gestalt psychology wanted to question based on experimental finding in the field of perception. In particular, this school wanted to revolt against Hume’s “bundle-hypothesis” of mental phenomena in which immediate experience was reducible to a summation of isolated parts clustered together. In contrast, it argued that what we perceive are relatively separated wholes, that is, a Gestalten rather than a bundle of perceptions. At first it was not easy to find a way to distinguish this perceptual phenomenon of wholeness, but Ehrenfels (1890) had found a couple of criteria that could provide a first approximation. The Gestalten is something more than the sum of the parts (supersummativity), and, like a melody when it is played using a different key, it does not depend on any given set of elements (transposability). Wertheimer (1925), the founder of the school, defined the Gestalten as a special kind of aggregate “in which a manifold is not compounded from adjacently situated pieces but rather such that a term at its place in that aggregate is determined by the whole-laws of the aggregate itself” (Ibid [1938]: 11). Maybe he provided a better formulation in an article on the Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms (1923). When we are presented with a number of stimuli we do not as a rule experience “a number” of individual things, this one and that and that. Instead larger wholes separated from and related to one another are given in experience; their arrangement and division are concrete and definite. (Ibid [1938]: 72)

A year earlier Wertheimer (1922) had correlated the perception of Gestalt phenomena to stimulus-constellations. “Perception must be treated from the point of view of stimulus-constellations on the one side and actually given mental Gestalt phenomena on the other” (Ibid [1938]: 15). Thus, the perception of an object doesn’t


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consist in the summation of simple perceptions correlated to stimulus-points, but in the perception of a whole pattern. Furthermore, when this school talks about perceiving a gestalt as analogous to recognizing a stimulus-constellation, I take this perceptual recognition as response to environmental stimuli. But the unifying aspiration of the Gestalt school would not end in perception or even in psychology. As Klüver (1929) says, “Gestalt theory, though it was formulated in connection with studies in the field of optical perception, aims to be more than a theory of perception, even more than a psychological theory” (Ibid: 429). Indeed, though this school would reject the constancy-hypothesis in which every sensation is correlated to a stimulus, it nevertheless assumed another psychophysical parallelism, the correspondence between psychic Gestalten and physical Gestalten. According to Wertheimer (1922), once we realize that what is given in experience is a whole process, “this leads in physiological theory to the assumption of whole processes. The cells of an organism are parts of the whole and excitations occurring in them are thus to be viewed as part-processes functionally related to whole-processes of the entire organism” (Ibid [1938]: 15). In the words of Köhler (1920), who formulated the principle of isomorphism, “we have an immediate correspondence between mental and physical processes and the demand seems inescapable that at this point organic functions be thought of as participating in and exhibiting essentially Gestalt characteristics” (Ibid [1938]: xiv). Finally, in order to avoid confusing mental processes with internal experience given that physiological processes are not always accompanied by consciousness, Koffka (1935) suggested introducing the concept of ““psychophysical field”, indicating by this term both its physiological nature and its relation to direct experience” (Ibid [1936]: 67). In any case, the Gestalt school went too far with its wholeness-hypothesis when it decided to extend it to the central processes of the nervous system because peripheral-central processes are always present when there is a response to stimulus-constellations and, thus, there is no need to postulate a parallel psychical field corresponding to the perceptual field. But the study of achievement using the stimulus-response scheme was not exhausted with behavioural and perceptual responses. As we said in introducing this section, that framework implies an organism with its environment. However, given that cybernetic systems are self-determined systems, we cannot assume that the organism is environmentally determined and, thus, that a given environmental stimulus necessarily results in the same response, as behaviourism wanted us to believe. Instead, investigating the organism-environment adjustment opens up two possible lines of inquiry, we can investigate the adjustment either between stimuli-cues and distal objects or between means-objects and distal goals. In fact, we owe the integration of both aspects to the seminal work of Tolman and Brunswik (1935). But before we review this paper, we need to understand Tolman’s revision of the behaviourist school in the early 1930s which contributed to consolidate a different school of psychology that has its forerunner in McDougall (1908).

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3.2.5  Purposive Psychology This school originated in McDougall’s (1923) criticism of behaviourism insisting that “Instinctive action, rather than reflex action, is in my view, and in that of many other psychologists, the key to the understanding of human behaviour” (Ibid. [1949]: 70). Influenced by William James’s anti-intellectualism but rejecting his idea that instincts “conform to the general reflex type” (James 1887: 355), McDougall proposed a theory of instinct grounded on the concept of striving or urge linking it to emotion and defining purposive behaviour as instinctive behaviour involving consciousness. “Behaviour is purposive” […] by which we mean that they are made for the sake of attaining their natural end, and that this end is more or less clearly anticipated or foreseen. For any of one of us, when he acts in this way and reflects upon his behaviour, may observe introspectively that he himself foresees, however vaguely, the kind of end his action will attain. (Ibid. [1949]: 47)

Once his view became more popular, McDougall (1930) advocated for “hormic psychology”, My task is the more difficult one of justifying the far more radically purposive psychology denoted by the adjective “hormic” […] which asserts that active striving towards a goal is a fundamental category of psychology […] hormic activity is essentially mental activity, involving always cognition or awareness, striving initiated and governed by such cognition. (1930 [1936]: 446, 461)

For Tolman (1932), however, purposive behaviour was not conscious activity. For McDougall, however, purpose is introspectively defined, it is a “psychic”, “mentalistic” somewhat, behind such objective appearances and to be known through introspection only. This difference between our point of view and McDougall’s is fundamental and implies a bouleversement complet. (Ibid [1967]: 16)

Instead, Tolman wanted to provide an objective definition of behaviour which rejected “mentalism” but also “molecularism”. Coherent with behaviourism, behaviour could not be investigated by introspective methods, but that did not necessarily mean that behaviour had to be analysed in terms of aggregates of reflexes. Watson himself had defined psychology as the study of the behaviour of the whole animal to differentiate it from physiology. But the father of behaviourism did not realize the implicit contradiction since behaviour was “also an ‘emergent’ phenomena different from the sum of its physiological parts. Behaviour, as such, is an “emergent” phenomenon that has descriptive and defining properties of its own” (Ibid: 7). By looking at the descriptive properties of behaviour, Tolman realized that they involve a functional relation between the organism and its environment. First, behaviour “always seems to have the character of getting to or getting-from a specific goal object, or goal situation” (Ibid: 10). Second, that goal object is always reached though the intervening means-objects. Third, “behaviour-acts are to be characterized, also, in terms of a selectively greater readiness of short (i.e. easy) means activities as against long ones” (Ibid: 11). In other words, “this selectiveness towards means-objects and means routes is relative to the means-end ‘direction’ and


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‘distance’ of the goal-object” (Ibid: 11–12). What Tolman was trying to say is that purposive behaviour is always relative to the selection of means-objects to achieve a goal-object which depends on the position of the organism in relation to its environment. However, this seemed to be in contradiction with the second part of that same work, Purposive Behaviour in Animals and Men (1932), where Tolman argued that the experiments with rats in a maze suggested that “immanent purpose” was a behaviour-determinant mediating factor “between specific stimuli and initiating physiological states, on the one hand, and specific resultant act, on the other” (Ibid: 414). If the immanent purpose was an intermediate variable between stimulusresponse, that is, something intrinsic to the organism itself, how could purpose behaviour still imply a functional relation between the organism and its environment? Is not purposive behaviour a property intrinsic to the rat in the maze, the organisms in its environment? Furthermore, do we need to postulate a central variable between stimulus and response when this scheme already implies centralperipheral processes? In any case, Tolman (1948) would go further in separating the organism from its environment when he introduced the hypothesis of cognitive maps in the brain to explain the learning of rats. 3.2.6  Probabilistic Functionalism Now we can introduce Tolman and Brunswik’s (1935) seminal study of distal achievement. As they state in the introduction, “Having found that our previous separate investigations had led us quite independently of one another to a common point of view as to the general nature of psychology, we decided upon this joint article” (Ibid: 1). While Tolman’s work focused on the relation between meansobject to distal goals, Brunswik had been studying the constancy-phenomenon in human perception showing equivocality between proximal stimuli-configurations and distal objects. Well, equivocality was also assumed in the case of the “study of the relations of means-objects (Mittelgegenstdnde) to ends (Zielgegenstdnde) in the learning activities of rats” (Ibid: 44). In other words, Brunswik was suggesting a probabilistic functional relation between the organism and its environment in which distal achievement was dependent on selecting the right proximal cues and meansobjects to achieve distal objects and goals. the psychological success of an organism will depend (i) upon its ability to pick out" good " means-objects for reaching the positive goal and (ii) upon its ability to select the reliable cues for this good means-object. An organism will be successful in so far as it can do both. (Ibid: 58)

Fifteen years later, Brunswik’s (1952) probabilistic functionalism would discover an affinity with information theory (Shannon and Weaver 1949). perceptual cues and behavioural means are like “signals” in “coded messages”. The perceived objects and behavioural results which correspond to the message are mediated through “noisy channels”. These latter are contaminated with interferences or constraints of

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their own which reduce the sender’s freedom of choice […] in the medium that must be molded to carry the message. The result is equivocation. (Ibid: 748)

Finally, in a posthumous paper on the historical relations of psychology to other sciences, he wrote: “Within still another discipline, communication theory […] the study of message transmission through semierratic external media comes very close to the psychological problem of the anticipation, and adjustment to, a distant world” (1956: 160). What is interesting about this article is that it mentions for the first time Ashby’s Design for a Brain (1952) as an example of what Brunswik (1952) had previous classified as self-contained brain models in which “the feedback loops of computing machines are contained within the system itself” (Ibid [1955]: 744) and of cybernetics more generally. This is, to be sure, entirely adequate in the case of computation tasks involving merely relations between “inputs” (peripheral stimulus) and “outputs” (peripheral responses) without venturing beyond the boundary of the system proper. Significantly, Wiener’s book Cybernetics bears the subtitle “control and communication in the animal and the machine”. (Ibid: 745)

It is a pity that, at the time, he contacted McCulloch instead of Ashby to learn about this emerging field. If so, he would have known of different cybernetics that was far from an “encapsulation within the organism” type and closer to his probabilistic functionalism. To show that affinity, let us finish this section with a diagram (Fig. A.2) of Brunswik’s lens model of “the functional unit of behaviour” in which he represents “stabilized functional units” between the organism and its environment in terms of the stimulus-response framework. What is notable is that there is only one feedback loop between the organism and its environment related to the response side, but we could easily add another direction between the environment and the organism related to the stimulus side in order to complete the information circuit. In addition, between the stimulus and the response, there is the organism represented by “a family hierarchy of cognitive cues or of overt behavioural habits (means) mediating between two focal variables” (Ibid: 684). My only criticism is that these two central variables mediating between stimulusresponse are similar to Tolman’s purposes or cognitive maps, but if there is a functional dependence between the organism and its environment, perceptual cues and behavioural habits belong to the purposive activity of a cybernetic system. In particular, that purposive activity depends on perceptual and behavioural patterns that are either innate or acquired as we will see in the section devoted to ethology. 3.2.7  Other Psychologies What can we say about the other contemporary psychologies that did not converge towards the functional approach, such as psychoanalysis and holistic psychologies? Well, psychoanalysis was grounded on the concept of time intrinsic to biological systems, that is, the origin-past duality or time past, and personalistic psychologies ended up downplaying the functional relation between the organism and its


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Fig. A.2  Brunswik’s lens model (reproduced from Brunswik 1952)

environment, the central-periphery duality. In particular, Stern (1935) defined the person as “a living whole, individual, unique, striving towards goals, self-contained and yet open to the world around him” (Ibid [1938]: 70). In addition to its external environment, “every person has his own personally relevant world, briefly, his personal world […] In contrast to the cosmic world, the personal world is centered; each person is the center of his own world” (Ibid: 88). In particular, the personal world subsumes different “modalities of live”, from the biological to the introceptible worlds, which gradually decouple the organism from its environment. This trend towards the “central-periphery chasm” can be seen in the precursors of cognitive science such as McCulloch and Pitts’s neural networks, Craik’s smallscale models, Hebb’s cell assemblies, and Hayek’s sensory order. McCulloch and Pitts (1943) proposed a self-contained brain model containing neural nets and Craik (1943) suggested that “the organism carries a ‘small-scale model’ of external reality and of its own possible actions within is head” (Ibid: 61). Hebb’s (1949) encapsulated theory of learning claimed that “any frequently repeated, particular stimulation will lead to the slow development of a ‘cell-assembly’ a diffuse structure comprising cells in the cortex and diencephalon […] capable of acting briefly in a closed system” (Ibid [2002]: xix). And Hayek (1952) postulated a parallelism between the psychical world and the phenomenal world, two different relational orders of sensory qualities without a simple one-to-one correspondence.

3.3 Ethology We are now going to introduce the last field of science in this prehistory of cybernetics, and to do so we need to understand a gap implied by both physiology and psychology. Indeed, though they both assume the functional relationship between the organism and its environment, in that relationship peripheral processes are prior to central processes which suggests that they are not simultaneous processes. We saw

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this with the functional mechanisms discovered by physiology in which the centralperipheral processes always started with sensory stimuli but also with the stimulusresponse framework in psychology in which the environment was the initial focal variable, to use Brunswik’s (1952) terminology. Moreover, we started defining physiologically the peripheral and the central processes as corresponding to receptors-effectors and afferent-efferent pathways, respectively, as if the cybernetics systems are understood in neurophysiological terms exclusively. Likewise, when introducing the framework of psychology to study achievement, we assumed the existence of physiological processes. However, now it is time to establish the reciprocal relationship between the organism and its environment, and this is only possible with the simultaneity of central-peripheral processes. In addition, we cannot define the central processes as afferent-efferent pathways alone because this implies that the central nervous system is only a conductor mechanism of sensory-motor impulses, as Watson (1919) believed. Well, ethology will compensate this conceptual gap with a balance between the organism and its environment by providing a different view of the central nervous system while acknowledging the functional importance of reflex processes. Indeed, in using the motivation-reflex scheme to study the purposive activity of cybernetic systems, ethology will do full justice to the functional relationship between the organism-environment. Unlike the former sciences in which the environment had to remain constant for their experiments, ethologists studied an animal species in its natural surrounding without being to close or too far from it. Allow an animal species to perform before our eyes as much as possible of its entire action system under known, controllable conditions […] it encompasses the organism and its environment simultaneously, including the reciprocal relationships between them. (Lorenz 1944–1948[1997]: 223)

According to Lorenz, we owe this research method to the forerunners of the field, Whitmann (1898) and Heinroth (1910), who made some empirical discoveries comparing the behaviour of phylogenetically related animal species and showing the similarity of motor patterns or homologies in behaviour. This meant that, in addition to morphological characters, species also inherited behavioural patterns which are also phylogenetic characters. “Whitman referred to these patterns simply as “instincts”, while Heinroth avoided the loaded terms of instincts and referred instead to “species-specific drive-governed patterns” (Lorenz [1997]: 242). But Heinroth went one step further in interpreting these findings in terms that go beyond biology in suggesting that these constant behavioural patterns were correlated to different “moods”. This concept of “mood” would be crucial in the development of ethology because it introduced a different type of process not reducible to reflexes. Another stepping stone came from Craig’s (1918) discovery of “appetitive behaviour”. An appetite (or appetence, if this term may be used with purely behavioristic meaning), so far as externally observable, is a state of agitation which continues so long as a certain stimulus, which may be called the appeted stimulus, is absent. When the appeted stimulus


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is at length received it stimulates a consummatory reaction, after which the appetitive behaviour cease and is succeeded by a state of relative rest. (Ibid: 91)

At last, it was Lorenz who demonstrated that the response intensity depends on the internal responsiveness of the organism and the strength of the external stimulus. This suggested that organisms accumulated an “action-specific potential” that could account for two opposite phenomena. On the one hand, the specific fatigue of a motor pattern in which “the threshold value for elicitation of the response increases with the number of releases that have already taken place” (Ibid: 280). And, on the other, the “vacuum activity” released “without an object” when the threshold value decreases to zero. In fact, this action-specific potential was confirmed by a similar phenomenon discovered by Holst (1935, 1938). His experiments demonstrated that fish could generate automatic impulses without peripheral stimuli. As Lorenz (1944–1948) says, “A completely new, previously unrecognized elementary function of the nervous system has now emerged alongside the reflex process as an entirely equivalent and equally significant phenomenon” (Ibid [1997]: 300). By defining central processes in terms of “action-specific potential” or “automatic impulse production” in the central nervous system, we can say that Lorenz and Holst’s contributions helped to establish the spontaneity side in the motivationreflex scheme necessary to understand instinctive motor patterns. If, like peripheral processes, central processes can also initiate behaviour, they cannot be reduced to afferent-efferent pathways. The automatic impulse production can only come from motivation processes or appetence. Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain an animal’s responsiveness without external stimuli. Likewise, to complete that scheme, ethology also needed to modify the view of peripheral processes as receptors-effectors by incorporating the environmental stimuli recognized by the organism. Indeed, Lorenz discovered a reflex process in which fixed motor patterns were released by relatively simple environmental stimuli, the so-called innate releasing mechanism (IRM). By reframing central-peripheral processes, motivation-reflex processes became identical to the functional relationship between the organism and its environment. Instinctive activity resulted from a “three-link chain comprising appetence, the IRM, and the consummatory act [that] can be found in many organisms as an entirely closed program devoid of any adaptive modifiability through learning” (Lorenz 1981: 293). Indeed, this case corresponds to the genetically programed behaviour, but there is also the possibility of the adaptive modification of behaviour. Whenever a modification of an organ, as well as of a behavior pattern, proves to be adaptive to a particular environmental circumstance, this also proves incontrovertibly that information about this circumstance must have been "fed into" the organism. There are only two ways this can happen. The first is in the course of phylogenesis through mutation and/ or new combinations of genetic factors and through natural selection. The second is through individual acquisition of information by the organism in the course of its ontogeny. (Ibid: 9)

Innate and acquired behaviour can be explained within the motivation-reflex framework because the latter is grounded on the same central-peripheral processes, but it does not end with the consummatory act. On the contrary, the consequences

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of peripheral processes are “fed-back” to central processes which constitute an information circuit between the organism and its environment. This feedback loop reports the success or failure of the purposive activity of the cybernetic system. Though this implies that all learning requires a feedback loop between peripheral and central processes, Lorenz (1982) distinguishes between type R conditioning (operant conditioning) or “learning though association without feedback reporting success” in which the organism acquires a particular behavioural pattern fitting the environmental situation and type S conditioning or “learning effected by the consequences of behaviour”. In a vast majority of cases, animal gains information by trying to apply one particular behavior pattern to different environmental situations and learns, by this activity, to choose the stimulus situation in which this particular activity affords a maximum of reinforcing feedback. (Ibid: 286)

However, in the case of learning by operant conditioning, I would say that the cybernetic system learns by “trial and error” to respond with a consummatory act “satisfying” appetence and, thus, there feedback reporting success is not absent. In any case, the adjustment between the organism and its environment depends on selecting a stimuli situation.

3.4  The Science of Adaptive Behaviour I believe we are entering a new domain of science different from biology because Darwin’s theory of natural selection can explain the evolution of the genetically programmed behaviour, but the adaptive behaviour of information-tight systems seems beyond its reach. That is, unlike biological systems, cybernetic systems are functionally related by informational circuits. In particular, biology is unable to explain why the animal-environment system maintains a stable equilibrium because its functional unit is the population. Notice that what is in stable equilibrium is not the organism but the organisms and its environment, cybernetic system. Moreover, an organism adapting to its environment can indeed be explained by natural selection such as the evolution of innate releasing mechanisms in animal species. However, these reflex processes release a fixed motor pattern so the functional relationship between the organism and its environment is still there. In other words, cybernetic processes overlap with but are different from evolutionary processes just like the latter overlap with but are different physical processes. Now that we have completed the prehistory of cybernetics, we can analyse what physiology, psychology, and ethology have in common. First, the conceptual framework of these sciences assumes the functional relationship between the organism and its environment. In physiology, the division between voluntary and involuntary functions of the nervous system on distinguishing outwardly from inwardly reactions and the homeostasis of the organism is dependent on external conditions. Likewise, the conceptual framework of psychology relates environmental stimuli to animal response. And in the case of ethology, motivation processes are satisfied by


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reflex processes releasing behavioural patterns. The difference between these sciences is that whereas physiology and psychology assume that peripheral processes are prior to central processes, ethology compensates that imbalance by showing that central-peripheral are simultaneous processes. Next, we have seen that the notion of feedback appears in physiology with the two analogous concepts of reverse afferentation (Anokhin) and reafference principle (Holst and Mittelstaedt), then, in psychology, as the law of effect (Thorndike) and in the lens model (Brunswik), and finally, in ethology, in the case of the type S conditioning (Lorenz). In addition, the notion of purposive behaviour relating the organism to its environment is found both in psychology (Tolman) and in ethology (Craig). Furthermore, according to both of these sciences, the adjustment between the organism and its environment depends on selecting a stimuli situation (Lorenz) or the right proximal cues and means-objects (Tolman and Brunswik). Now that we have covered the prehistory of cybernetics we can confirm the following. Neo-cybernetic science assumes both the central-peripheral spatial duality and past-present temporal duality of cybernetic systems given that the prevailing way of behaving is established when the feedback between the organism and its environment reports success.

4  The History of Neo-Cybernetics 4.1  The Birth of Cybernetics Neo-cybernetic science is also suggesting a different notion of cybernetics because its subject matter is not the “scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”, as Wiener (1948) defined it, but that of adaptive behaviour. If this is the case, I am afraid we have a different founding father, Ashby, and a different history yet to be told about his development of the theory of adaptive behaviour. But am I entitled to dismiss the whole history of cybernetics as it is told today? Well, my reason to suggest so is that a new world-hypothesis is now guiding us and dictating what is logically compatible with this new domain of science we have labelled neo-cybernetics. So let us finish discussing the origins of cybernetics, which ironically is newer than neo-cybernetics, to judge whether there is some truth in my bold claim. The foundation of cybernetics as a new field is credited to Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics though some seminar work was carried out in collaboration with a neurophysiologist to whom he dedicates the book. “This book represents the outcome, after more than a decade, of a program of work undertaken jointly with Dr. Arturo Rosenblueth” (Ibid: 1). And, as we are told later, the collaboration grow out of the work done by him during the Second World War on prediction theory useful “to shoot the missile, not at the target, but in such a way that missile and target may come together in space at some time in the future”. (Ibid: 5). However, to build such

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a machine, he was missing an engineer. “I found myself engaged in a war project, in which Dr. Julian H. Bigelow and myself were partners in the investigation of the theory of prediction and of the construction of apparatus to embody these theories” (Ibid: 6). So cybernetics was the offspring of an interdisciplinary collaboration between a mathematician, a neurophysiologist, and an engineer who had written together an earlier seminal paper, Behaviour, Purpose and Teleology (Rosenblueth et al. 1943), in which they defined teleological behaviour as “behavior controlled by negative feed-back” (Ibid: 24). However, that feedback controlled behaviour is not something we only find in animals, “a uniform behavioristic analysis is applicable to both machines and living organisms, regardless of the complexity of the behaviour” (Ibid: 22). Indeed, and this is how purposeful behaviour is defined, A cat starting to pursue a running mouse does not run directly toward the region where the mouse is at any given time, but moves toward an extrapolated future position. Examples of both predictive and non-predictive servomechanisms found readily. (Ibid: 20)

In other words, Wiener’s mathematical theory of prediction became the bridge to unite two previously unrelated sciences, neurophysiology and engineering, under the science of cybernetics or “control and communication in the animal and the machine”. Wiener’s optimism about the prospects of founding a new field found some early supporters of that cause, as he wrote to Rosenblueth a couple of years later. We held a meeting two weeks ago and it was a great success […] The first day von Neumann spoke of computing machines and I spoke of communication engineering. The second day Lorente de No and MmCulloch joined forces for a very convincing presentation of the present status of the problem of the organization of the brain. In the end we were all convinced that the subject embracing both the engineering and neurology aspects is essentially one and we should go ahead with plans to embody these ideas in a permanent program of research”. (Wiener 1940–1945: January 24, 1945)

The conference he was referring to was the so-called Teleology Meeting held at Princeton on 6–7 January 1945 promoted by Aiken, von Neumann, and himself as a prelude to the foundation of an organization devoted to that purpose. As they wrote to Captain Goldstein a week earlier, Professor Wiener and Commander Aiken make the tentative suggestion that the group be known as the Teleological Society. Teleology is the study of purpose of conduct, and it seems that a large of our interest is devoted on the one hand to the study of how purpose is realized in human and animal conduct and on the other hand how purpose is imitated by mechanical and electrical means. (Wiener 1940–1945: December 28, 1944)

A similar statement of intent was signed by them at the beginning of the month, A group of people interested in communication engineering, the engineering of computing machines, the engineering of control devices, the mathematics of time series in statistics, and the communication and control aspects of the nervous system, has come to a tentative conclusion that the relations between these fields of research have developed to a degree of intimacy that it makes a get-together meeting between people interested in them highly desirable […] to discuss questions of common interest and make plans for the future development of this field of effort, which as yet is not even named. (Wiener 1940–1945: December 4, 1944)


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As the story goes, though the Teleological Society was never founded, the Princeton Teleology Meeting was the forerunner of the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (1946–1953) chaired by Warren McCulloch, who is also considered another founder of cybernetics for his seminar paper with Walter Pitts, A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity (1943). In this case, however, Wiener’s (1948) analogy between the animal and the machine would become an identity for McCulloch (1949): the brain is a logical machine. According to Dupuy (1994), “a history of cybernetics centered on the tension between the distinctive styles of thought embodied by Wiener and McCulloch would give a very different picture of things” (Ibid [2005]: 181). However, rather than arguing who was the true leader in the cybernetic movement which gave to birth of cognitive science (Dupuy 1994) or to the information age (Kline 2015), the historian of cybernetics would do better in studying its scientific contributions. Instead, some authors argue that cybernetics was “a form of life, a way of going on in the world”, which declined in the West from a lack of institutional support (Pickering 2010: 9), whereas in the Soviet Union, it became “a fashionable trend in the 1960s [and] a convenient tool of bureaucracy in the early 1970s” (Gerovitch 2002: 293). On the contrary, not everything that came under the name of cybernetics was a failure or a fad. In fact, when the cybernetics movement had reached its zenith in the mid-1950s, Ashby was regretting that he had “taken not the least step to sustain the belief that a major discovery has been made”. I have done nothing to build up an association between the name of Ashby and the Theory of Ultrastability. Until this morning the possibility of thus making something of my theory had not even occurred to me. The truth is that I am not interested in “success”, and in fact shrink from it; what I have wanted is to know how the brain worked […] I suppose I ought to be more definite in my dealing with others, and ought to insist that a discovery has been made and a major problem solved (I doubt whether I will, though, when it comes to the point). (14 February 1956: 5252–5253)

What about the fathers of cybernetics, such as Wiener or McCulloch, did not they make any scientific discovery to advance the domain of neo-cybernetic science? This is the time to show that their contributions cannot be grounded on a new worldhypothesis. Why? Basically, both men held some fundamental assumptions that did not match the spatial and temporal constitution of cybernetic systems. According to Wiener (1948), his theory of prediction based on time series applicable to both the brain and the machine demanded a “Bergsonian time”, that is, “the irreversible time of evolution and biology” (Ibid [1985]: 38). In particular, “the nerve fiber is a logical machine in which a later decision is made on the basis of the outcome of a number of earlier decisions. This is essentially the mode of operation of an element in a computing machine” (Wiener 1956: 291). In other words, the future behaviour of cybernetic systems is determined by the computation of past time series on an ongoing base. The predictor uses the immediate past of the flight of the airplane as a tool for the prediction of the future by means of a linear operation; but the determination of the correct linear operation is a statistical problem in which the long past of the flight and the past of many similar flights are used to give the basis of the statistics. (Ibid [1961]: 173)

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In the case of McCulloch’s experimental epistemology, as he named his strand of cybernetics, it embraced openly the “central-periphery chasm”. Building on the “all-or-none law” of nervous impulse, McCulloch and Pitts (1943) argued that brain was as self-referential system of cerebral circuits and that “the regenerative activity of constituent circles renders reference indefinite as to time past” (my italics, Ibid: 113). According McCulloch (1951), the mind is in the head, Because there, and only there, are hosts of possible connections to be formed as time and circumstances demand. Each new connection serves to set the stage for other yet to come and better fitted to adapt us to the world, for through the cortex pass the greatest inverse feedbacks whose function is the purposive life of the human intellect. (Ibid [1967]: 56–57)

In summary, neither Wiener’s nor McCulloch’s cybernetics is grounded on the central-periphery spatial duality nor on the present-past temporal duality intrinsic to the cybernetic world. Fortunately, a different conception of cybernetics does exist which was logically possible within a new world-hypothesis. So let us turn to Ashby’s development of the theory of adaptive behaviour of cybernetic systems.

4.2  The Birth of Neo-Cybernetics The history of neo-cybernetics that we are now going to tell is not the history of the rise and fall of the cybernetic movement first in the West and then in the Soviet Union, nor the story of the Cybernetic Group meeting in New York (1946–1953) or that of the Radio Club gathering in London (1949–1955), even though Ashby did attend the next-to-last Macy Conference on Cybernetics in 1952 and was involved in the British cybernetics movement since the very beginning. We have formed a cybernetics group for discussion – no professors and only young people allowed in. How I got in I don’t know, unless my chronically juvenile appearance is at last proving advantageous. We intend just to talk until we can reach some understanding. McCulloch addressed us and talked for an hour. But I don’t think we have much to learn from him, though he undoubtedly has brains. (20 September 1949: 2624).

No, this history predates the institutionalization of cybernetic movement in the USA which culminated in Wiener’s Cybernetics (1948). Furthermore, though Ashby is known for his published work, Design for a Brain (1952) and An Introduction to Cybernetics (1956), the history of neo-cybernetics preceded the emerging field of cybernetics by over a decade of intensive work on the problem of adaptive behaviour founded on a great insight. It has just occurred to me that a vast simplification in the concepts of reactions, environment, adaptation and so on, may be effected by noticing that the organism and its environment together form a sort of circle. The environment affects the receptors, impulses go around and come out at the effectors. Effectors affect the environment which may then reaffect the receptors and so on. Consequently, the interactions of an organism with its environment is much better shown as a vicious circle. (23 May 1932: 425)


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What a beautiful statement of the central-peripheral spatial duality intrinsic to cybernetic systems! Now Ashby would have something to build on before completing his theory in 1953 though it was not until 1956 that he realized that he may have already reached “the end of the hunt”. Have I not, in fact, achieved my goal of explaining, and thereby de-bunking, the brain? Does not the whole thing go thus: 1) The brain’s only real skill, its only real claim to fame, is in regulation – homeostasis. […] the skill in homeostasis in undeniable 2) All that skill is achieved only by taking advantage of what is repetitive in the world. The brain’s adaptation is always to what has been (not to what will be); but the world often, very kindly, allows adaptation to the past to be transferable […] to the future. (2 January 1956: 5244)

The first point brings us back to Cannon’s work (1929, 1932), whose paper he mentions in 1940, but he did not read his book until 1947 when he made following comment. His definition [of homeostasis] is vague and unhelpful. He goes to state my idea of an abstract theory of stability. [Quoting from it] “the nervous system is divisible into two main parts, the one acting outwardly and affecting the world about us, and the other acting inwardly and helping to preserve constant and steady condition in the organism itself” (Why in Heaven’s name doesn’t’ he conclude that the outer part also preserves constant… etc. How can anyone be so blind?). (5 June 1947: 2195)

And the second point refers to the adaptation to a recurring world based on past success, something that he had noticed at the beginning of 1940 while thinking about learning. Learning. It seems most peculiar. But simplifies when we consider, not the learned reaction, but the series of reactions which gradually modify. So that the “learned reaction” is considered simply as the latest term in a series. The world “learning” is not usually used unless the later reactions are better adapted than the earlier. (26 January 1940: 796–797)

Unlike the cybernetic movement, Ashby was now equipped with different notion of space and time to ground the development of his theory of adaptive behaviour. However, we should not blame the fathers of cybernetics for their attempt to inform the emerging field with the concept of time intrinsic to living systems because the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (1946–1953) were held just after the evolutionary synthesis (1936 to 1947) was established. Moreover, the fact that Ashby did not want to contradict the consensus in biology meant that he would have to struggle to find a more general theory of adaptation. In fact, the first time he tried to do so was when he conceived the genes as being the internal environment of animals. The genes in the nucleus provide a fixed guiding system, acting as a fixed “internal environment”. […] The animal now reacts to the external environment, but it is “brassed” by the fact that it also has to adjust to this inner environment as well. The idea is clearest when we think of unicellular animals. With multicellular animals it becomes more complex. (15 November 1939: 702–703)

This suggestion would be buried in his journal, and he would not dare to put into print until he was completely sure about this and other ideas and many times he would go back to review his notes, cross out pages, check the maths, or realize he had made little progress or none at all. In particular, in 1945, “after having re-read

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my notes right through from p.1”, he would conclude, “My early notes, especially Vols 2 and 3 [1930–1939] are appalling even for their simple ignorance and inaccuracy. They are quite unfit for any human eye” (3 July 1945: 1967). And, yet, 1939 marked the birth of neo-cybernetics coinciding with a “fresh start” in Volume 4 on the question of stable equilibrium that was turned into a seminal paper, Adaptiveness and Equilibrium (1940), and followed by an unpublished manuscript, The Origin of Adaptation (1941), laying the ground for Ashby’s theory of ultrastability. That was the first period in the history of neo-cybernetics which covers Ashby’s intellectual development until 12 February 1953, the moment in which he discovered the mechanism explaining why cybernetic systems maintain a stable equilibrium. However, this great discovery was eclipsed by this famous law of requisite variety questioning the central-peripheral duality. Unfortunately, he never gave up this line of thinking, so by the end of his life, he gave up that idea altogether in a co-authored paper. The suggestion has been made many times that perhaps the brain operates by building a model (or models) of its environment; but the suggestion has (so far as we know) been offered only as a possibility […] Now that we know that any regulator (if it conforms to the qualifications given) must model what it regulates, we can proceed to measure how efficiently the brain carries out this process. There can no longer be question about whether the brain models its environment: it must. (Conant and Ashby 1970: 90, 97)

But since the history of cognitive science is not the subject of this book, this event should not worry too much here. In contrast, we will start the history of neocybernetics with a quote showing Ashby’s sustained commitment to the centralperipheral duality present in his thinking imagination, as we saw earlier, from a great insight in 1932. I believe that a possible way of approaching the subject is to take it as axiomatic that an organism is in stable equilibrium with its environment […] Further, we may take it as axiomatic that every part, under “normal conditions” will be, or must be, in stable equilibrium with its environment. (3 January 1939: 568)

In fact, he translated that commitment into the concepts of parameters and variables corresponding to the environment and the organism, respectively. “Change of parameters equals stimulus, i.e. something from outside” and change of variables “means only internal readjustment” (17 June 1941: 934). “Joining the two we reach a very pretty and intriguing picture of the animal and environment as the whole system” (15 July 1941: 949). However, later in An Introduction to Cybernetics (1956), the system will become a machine defined by a set of variables, the essential variables. This list can be varied, and the experimenter’s commonest task is that of varying the list (“taking other variables into account”) until he finds a set of variables that he required singleness. […] The “absolute” system described and used in Design for a Brain is just such a set of variables. (1956: 40–41)

Again, this should not worry us too much here because I will show that we can separate the wheat from the chaff in his work to arrive at a theory of informationtight systems without identifying them with machines. Unfortunately, this means


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leaving out his famous homeostat built between 1946 and 1947 which was featured in The Herald in 1948 and appeared in Time Magazine in 1949 being described as “the closest thing to a synthetic brain so far designed by man” and, by another American magazine, as “the new epoch-making and though-provoking electronic brain”. 4.2.1  First Period: Adaptation as Stable Equilibrium In 1939, Ashby made the equilibrium between the organism and its environment axiomatic adding the following remark as to where that functional relationship occurred. “[E]very part, under ‘normal conditions’ will be, or must be, in stable equilibrium with its environment”. By “every part” he was assuming that the organism or, more specifically, the nervous system, was made of an “organization of units”, that is, neurons, with their own corresponding “little environments”. In addition, in order for the animal to learn something, its environment had to show “some consistency and systematization”, that is, regularity, otherwise what it learned in one situation would be useless in another. This was one of the main conclusions Ashy arrived at “the end of the hunt” in 1956 when summarizing “the brain’s only real skill”, homeostasis, which is “achieved only by taking advantage of what is repetitive in the world”. Another thing that he realized was that in order to reach that stable equilibrium, every change from the environment that affected the organism required a balancing mechanism. In terms of the nervous system, If each neuron alters in some way so that any change in its environment produces an effect, through the neurone, which opposes that change, then will a change in the environment automatically produce (through the organism) a back-effect which opposes that change? This is the theorem. (18 July 1939: 594)

This may be the first time that Ashby conceived feedback as a functional relationship between the organism and its environment which will be crucial to distinguish his notion of stable equilibrium from that of homeostasis. Homeostasis is related to a variable within the organism that fluctuates “within physiological limits”, but stable equilibrium is more related to a functional circuit between the organism and its environment. However, these two concepts will be confused together in his notion of the ultrastable system, as we will see in the next section. But what was clear to him at the time was that stability belonged to the circuit between the organism and its environment rather than to the variables alone. “The circuit now becomes everything and the variables are of interest only in so far as they specify a particular circuit or happen to lie within it” (21 July 1939: 599). As a matter of curiosity, in 23 October of 1939, he uses for the first time the term “feedback circuits” (in the plural). As we will see latter, assuming a plurality of circuits within the cybernetic system will provide some headaches to Ashby given that there is only one functional circuit between the organism and its environment.

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Now we come to the foundational ideal of Ashby’s work. From a panoramic view of the headings of his journal, we realize that 1939 was the year of stable equilibrium though he did not link that notion to adaptive behaviour until the beginning of 1940. In fact, that year he wrote what we could consider the foundational paper of neo-cybernetics, Adaptiveness and Equilibrium (1940). There he “defined stable equilibrium more precisely: a variable is in stable equilibrium if, when disturbed, reactive forces are setup which act back on the variable so as to oppose the initial disturbance. If they go with it then the variable is in unstable equilibrium. (Ibid: 479)

What is remarkable about this notion is not so much its definition but its implication since “the concept of equilibrium necessarily involves the existence of a functional circuit” (Ibid: 480). Indeed, the functional relationship between the organism and its environment is a feedback circuit. Furthermore, stable equilibrium is telling us something more profound: adaptive behaviour is to be in stable equilibrium. Finally, there is one point of fundamental importance which must be grasped. It is that stable equilibrium is necessary for existence, and that systems in unstable equilibrium inevitably destroy themselves. Consequently, if we find that a system persists, in spite of the usual small disturbances which affect every physical body, then we may draw the conclusion with absolute certainty that the system must be in stable equilibrium. (Ibid: 482)

In order to demonstrate this idea, he provides some examples in keeping with his definition of stable equilibrium such as the stability of the pH in the blood or the diameter of the pupil in the eye which imply a functional circuit. However, these two examples are not alike given that the second is not a homeostatic process within the organism but results from a functional relationship between the organism and its environment. In particular, the first example was related to inward-oriented functions regulated by the autonomic nervous system and the second to outward-oriented functions related to the central nervous system. This goes to show that Ashby conceived stable equilibrium as a homeostasis even though the latter was not equivalent to adaptive behaviour. adaptiveness is shown only in relation to some specific situation: an animal in a void can show neither good nor bad adaptation. Further, it is clear that this situation or environment must affect the animal in some manner, i.e. must disturb it, for if it has no effect on the animal it does not exist as far as the animal is concerned. Further, for adaptive behaviour, the animal must affect the environment in some manner, i.e. must change it. (Ibid: 482–483)

Clearly, the functional circuit relates the organism with its environment and does not take place within the organism “for we have, first: environment has an effect on the animal, and then: the animal has some effect on the environment. The concept of adaptive behaviour deals with the relationship between the two effects” (Ibid: 483). By saying this, Ashby was adding another feature to the feedback circuit, there is a two-way functional relationship which, of course, does not apply in the case of homeostasis. However, those examples did conform to his idea that “all systems in equilibrium have a ‘neutral point’ […] in the case of a stable thermostat the neutral point is the temperature about which the thermostat is continually oscillating and to which it is continually tending” (Ibid: 480–481). This is also a good


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example showing how Ashby’s belief that he could apply his ideas to “non-living matter” conflated homeostasis with stable equilibrium. But why did not he notice the difference? Well, assuming that stable equilibrium consisted in variables remaining within a “range of stability”, which was close to the idea of homeostasis, it occurred to him that stability was related to a set of “variables which matter [that together] form one unit”, the essential variables (23 August 1940: 823). “The animal is ‘adapted’ if the systems finds a neutral region with vital variables not going outside the given range” (4 October 1941: 1058). However, as was mentioned earlier, this would lead him eventually to define the “dynamic system” or “machine” as the “variables” (20 November 1942: 1156) and to assume that adaptation was about keeping the essential variables within physiological limits over time. In the meantime, he had been working on an unpublished “memoir” entitled The Origin of Adaptation (1941). In stating the problem he wanted to solve there, Ashby stressed that “we are not concerned with problems relating to fixed, reflex behaviour” but with “the neural apparatus required for variable behaviour”. In particular, “the book deals only with reactions to direct, real dangers and not with all the difficulties and subtleties of reactions to “signals” (Ibid: 27–28). In addition, besides distinguishing between fixed and variable behaviour, he also made a parallel distinction between the system composed of animal and environment and that of the “cerebral cortex” and “the rest”. “This later division is perfectly valid for the second part is actually the environment of part 1 [the brain]” (Ibid: 122). Ashby then specifies the animal part of the system using the “vital” variables without noticing that they are related to the involuntary functions of the autonomic system rather than to the voluntary functions of the central nervous system. However, the main focus of the manuscript was not the anticipatory role of signalling stimuli but environmental situations that pose a real harm to the organism. “If these variables remain within specified limits the animal is considered to be alive, and if not, not” (Ibid: 127). So what was Ashby’s answer to the problem of adaptation to life-threatening stimuli? Well, using the example of the child who learns to keep at a safe distance from the fire to avoid getting burned, he claims that the brain goes on “breaking” and, thus, “changing organization” until it reaches a point of equilibrium adapted to its environment. “The dynamic organizations stop breaking when, and only when, they reach a state of stable equilibrium” (Ibid: 175–176). Ashby thought he had, in fact, discovered “how a system can organize itself so as to achieve a stable equilibrium” (Ibid: 190). And wrote ecstatically in his journal: “A triumph! I have just completed writing my memoir on “The Origin of Adaptation”! Stage 1 of my investigation appears to be complete” (19 November 1941). “My next problem, clearly, is the question of reaction, not to actual dangers, but to signals of dangers… (9 December 1941: 1066–1067). This will take him to see the link between learning and memory, and, of course, the concept of time as past-present will come again into the picture. Earlier, Ashby had noticed that “learning a new reaction means developing a new organization. So after an impressive experience I am, quite literally, a ‘changed man’” (26 July 1941: 975). Now he would claim that “the changed organization after breaks corresponds

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approximately to “memory” (22 November 1942: 1157). Therefore, memory extends to the last “break” of the brain when the system has learned an adaptive behaviour to maintain a stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. We could say that Ashby’s theory of breaks was broadening his concept of adaptation beyond the stabilization of vital variables to include the process of finding an adapted behaviour though “trial and error”. Paradoxically, instead of pointing towards something different from evolutionary adaptation, he believed it was something intrinsic to all matter. It now seems that, cutting out all megalomania, what I have achieved is that, given that simple animals adapt to their environment by “trial and error”, I have shown that this trial and error needs not special hypothesis but is simply a fundamental property of all matter. […] All my theory explains the “trial and error” method in terms of non-living matter. All that, but nothing more. (22 November 1942: 1158–1159)

This was a dispirited reaction after realizing he had not really discovered anything new. Anyway, at the beginning of 1943, he thought it would be worthwhile rewriting a paper he had prepared but now focusing on “adaptation by trial and error” suggesting “that this type of ·behavior is in no way special to living things” and “that it finds its origin and explanation in the concept of a machine ‘breaking’” (Ashby 1945: 13). In parallel, he was writing the outline of a future book giving more prominence to “the animal as machine” consisting of both the “vital variables” and the “nervous system with effectors and receptors”, and, in the second part, there was the “application to the nervous system” (April 1943: 1240). Though staying close to the physical origin of adaptation, Ashby started learning more about the biological origin of adaptation as he got hold of a book of one of the leaders of the evolutionary synthesis, Huxley’s (1942) Evolution: The Modern Synthesis. Interestingly, he even made “a list of collected examples showing how living organisms act blindly because of the past, or present, not according to the future” (2 October 1943: 1444). Among them, he mentions that “chickens will develop the habit of eating their own eggs as soon as they taste them”, “drug addiction”, and “Pavlov’s dogs could be conditioned to react to damaging stimulus by salivation”. Notice that all of them are learned reactions based on the last way of behaving that reports success or satisfaction. Finally, though in 1945 he started to look for “parallels between adaptation by natural selection and my adaptation”, “the graduation of adaptation” did not match his break theory. A true comparison between his theory of adaptation and “Mendelian theory” would have to wait until the next period though, eventually, a true unification including Darwin’s theory of evolution would prove impossible, as he realized in the last period. We can finish this section showing how Ashby started to take distance from physics, The systems I am talking of can be studies only by examining their behaviour – no other or extra knowledge is allowed […] the physicist always tries to use knowledge from every source about a given dynamic system while I am rigorously confined to studying systems by observing only their behaviour. (23 July 1944: 1716–1718)


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4.2.2  Second Period: Adaptation by Ultrastability Triumph! I have at last obtained some conditions under which my “break” theory becomes not only sufficient but necessary. The method is simple. It becomes necessarily so soon as we enclose the system in a definite absolute system within which the changes are to occur. (2 August 1944: 1725)

The discovery of the absolute system was, indeed, a turning point in Ashby’s thinking because it will enable him to integrate his “break” theory into a more encompassing theory of adaptive behaviour. The absolute system, meaning the isolated animal-environment system, is now the functional unit made of subsystems or stable units systems constituting a distributive system or a multistable system. Well, what this new period shows it that Ashby is starting to think in terms of levels within the absolute system which will suggest some known ideas. Indeed, when comparing “distributive theory” with the “Mendelian theory”, he finds the following parallelisms, among others: (1) the gene corresponds to the unit system, (2) the phenotype to behaviour, and (3) the “interaction in the gene-complex” to “the lack of complete independence between unit systems (This is a new idea)”. And in a footnote to the comparative table, he makes the following crucial remark: “on the left [Mendelian theory] the effect is commonly parametric [environmental], while on the right [distributive theory] the environment is a part of the system” (19 February 1945: 1890). In my opinion, this is the most fundamental difference between living and cybernetic systems. In short, in living systems, there is no functional relationship between the organism and its environment. But the generation of new ideas will not end here. Though Ashby (1945) had previously assumed the stability of the parts, now he realizes that “stability is therefore a “whole” property of a multistable system, and we cannot think of it as the simple sum of the separate stabilities” (15 August 1945: 2003). That is, “every equilibrium is a property of the whole system, or in other words, [the] coordination of the parts is necessary if it is to be achieved” (1946: 685). And suddenly realizes the implication, the cybernetic world is the “world of average behaviour”. Indeed, “by dealing with averages of many ultrastable systems we arrive at a new order or level of phenomena” (1 September 1946: 2062). This marks the beginning of his probabilistic understanding of adaptive behaviour. We should also mention that his understanding of “gene theory” contributed to sharpen his earlier division between fixed and varied behaviour. Indeed, in a paper published the following year, Ashby (1947) argues that “fixed, inborn mechanism, the reflexes” correspond to adaptation by natural selection and the other “type of adaptation” is “developed in each individual according to the environment” (Ibid: 44). So now “adaptive reactions”, in which there is a functional circuit between the organism and its environment, cannot be explained by natural selection alone. Furthermore, Ashby writes in his journal: Homeostasis means constancy, and constancy means independence. But independence of what? The answer is obvious. Man, and every animal, is dominated by the gene-pattern […] Homeostasis is ultimately produced by the gene-pattern, and it protects the gene-pattern

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from the dangers of the world because constancy means independence. (20 December 1947: 2314–2315)

He was still thinking of adaptation in terms of homeostasis as if “adaptive reactions”, ensuring a stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment, contributed to protect the “gene-pattern” responsible for maintaining the vital variables within physiological limits. But if “homeostasis is ultimately produced by the gene-pattern” and “constancy means independence” from the “dangers of the world”, then learned reactions cannot be explained by natural selection. If this is the case, homeostasis belongs to Mendelian rather than to “neuronic adaptations”. Ashby himself seems to suggest this when he record in this journal, “I claim that neuronic adaptation cannot be inborn and adapted by natural selection since there are only 48.000 genes to control neurones” (10 December 1947: 2302). However, despite having used a different name to distinguish adaptive reactions, he was still confusing stable equilibrium with homeostasis maybe because he believed that the vital variables are correlated with the brain which ensures stable equilibrium with the environment. He does seem to think so when using the example of the child approaching the fire for the first time, “it is well informed of the danger for there is a continuous parallelism between the sensation of heat and on its face and the approach of the real danger” (1941: 163). As we remember, Cannon had suggested that the sympathetic system within the autonomic nervous system is responsible for the stability of body temperature which could be upset by external conditions and, thus, linking homeostasis with the exteroceptors. However, if Ashby was influenced by Cannon, it was more by the relationship he established between the external and internal environments via the exteroceptors than by his grand division between the involuntary and the voluntary functions related to the autonomic and the central nervous systems, respectively. If we take the examples of stable equilibrium that Ashby (1946) mentions, they are all related to voluntary activities, such as “the balancing reflexes”, “learned responses”, “the coordination of movement”, and “feeding”, rather than to homeostasis. In spite of this, he still reckons that they “lead to the maintenance within limits of certain important variables” (Ibid: 685). Thus, Ashby was moving beyond evolutionary adaptation without realizing that the constancy of the internal environment of the organism, that is, homeostasis, was different from the stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment. Let us introduce Ashby’s (1952) Design for the Brain finished on 9 December, 1950. First, in order to avoid treating this book as a self-contained model of the brain, such as McCulloch and Pitt’s (1943) self-referential system of cerebral circuits, we should remember his notion of system. It was specified by the animal, as vital variable plus nervous system, and the environment corresponding to variables and parameters, respectively. In fact, Ashby (1952) is very clear that “the book is not a treatise on all cerebral mechanisms but a proposed solution to a specific problem: the origin of the nervous system’s unique ability to produce adaptive behaviour” (1952[1954]: v). On the other hand, we also saw that in 1942 he had defined the dynamic system or machine as the variables alone. So how does he handle this issue


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to avoid the accusation of treating the brain as a self-contained system? Well, by treating the parameters as the background of the absolute system. Every absolute system is formed by selecting some variables out of the totality of possible variables. 'Forming a system' means dividing all possible variables into two classes: those within the system and those without [parameters] […] [However] in an absolute system, a change of stability can only be due to change of value of a parameter, and change of value of a parameter causes a change in stability. [Ibid: 72, 79]

Thus, the parameters do not belong to the system but affect its stability. This seems to be in contradiction with his assertion that “stability is a “whole” property of a multistable system” unless we define the absolute system as an isolated system. Indeed, “a system, to be absolute, must be ‘properly isolated’” (Ibid: 153). If so, stability seems to be a property of the animal that might be disturbed by the environment, but not of the animal-environment system. Again, this reminds us more to the homeostasis in the organism than to the stable equilibrium of the animal-environment system. However, Ashby insists that “the free-living organism and its environment, taken together, form an absolute system” (Ibid: 35). Anyway, he will have to deal with that inconsistency at some point. “The work also in a sense develops a theory of the ‘natural selection’ of behaviour-patterns” (Ibid: vi) where learned behaviour “is a product chiefly of the cerebral cortex, and it is modified markedly by the organism’s individual experiences” (Ibid: 2). This theory will exclude other parts of the nervous system such as the “centres in the spinal cord and in the base of the brain” responsible for inborn behaviour and “under the control of the gene-pattern” (Ibid.). In other words, the animal-environment system will be the cortex-environment system since the brain is responsible for adapted behaviour. In a way, Ashby was right in focusing on the cerebral cortex for this theory of ultrastability because, physiologically speaking, the brain is related to the environment by means of peripheral processes. However, it only turns into a functional relationship when the cerebellum enters the picture; otherwise there would be no feedback circuit between the organism and its environment. Anyway, introducing the cerebellum would not affect Ashby’s theory, quite the contrary, because it would confirm his idea of the existence of “feedback circuits”. Furthermore, the animal was not connected to the environment in the usual way. This was something that Ashby’s wanted to clarify and included it in the list of possible misunderstanding “which must be well explained” for the “typical reader” of the book he was about to write. As he wrote in the journal regarding that item, With the animal-environment system explain why it is not necessarily for the animal to be in contact with every bit of the environment, an animal is really in contact with the environment only at its own periphery. (29 June 1945: 1964)

However, when it came to the form of adaptation of an animal in contact with its environment, he continued defining it in term of homeostasis, “‘adaptive’ behaviour is equivalent to the behaviour of a stable system, the region of the stability being the

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region of the phase-space in which all the essential variables lie within their normal limits” (1952 [1954]: 64). So how did Ashby’s new theory in Design differ from his old break theory? Well, the fundamental difference was that stability only applies to the whole, not to a part of a whole. That is, stable equilibrium is the property of the adaptive behaviour of the animal-environment system rather than that of the adaptive reaction of an organism. Furthermore, unlike a dynamic system which develops an internal organization adapted to environment, “an ultrastable system acts selectively towards the fields of the main variables, rejecting those that lead the representative point to a critical state but retaining those that do not” (Ibid: 91). And this is what Ashby means when he says that his ultrastability theory is a “theory of the ‘natural selection’ of behaviourpatterns” because “‘survival’ […] occurs when a line of behaviour takes no essential variables outside given limits” (Ibid: 42). Adaptation is not by trial and error of one part of the system, namely, the organism, but by ultrastability of both part and whole, that is, homeostasis of the organism and stable equilibrium of the animalenvironment system. Unfortunately, we cannot have both because homeostasis is related to the evolution by natural selection of an inborn mechanism that regulates vital variables “within limits” and the other is related to “change of behaviour”, as Ashby himself realized a week after Design had already been published. S.8/1 takes ‘change of behaviour’ as the desideratum. Page 4160 [“adaptation of essential variables”] takes ‘within limits’. This is a funny state of affairs! And ‘Design’ a week old! […] The conclusion seems inescapable: the heavy emphasis on step-functions [essential variables] used in ‘Design’ is misplaced. […] It is possible that more advanced systems make little use of it […] Summary: Adaptation without step-functions [essential variables]. (1 October 1952: 4162)

To move from “within limits” to “change of behaviour”, Ashby had to compensate “the heavy emphasis” on the internal stability of the organism with a better understanding of the functional relationship between the organism and its environment. So the next period in our history of neo-cybernetics is devoted to this crucial transition in Ashby’s intellectual development after by his encounter with information theory and ethology. 4.2.3  Third Period: The Transducer with Memory On 14 September [1949] we had a meeting at the National Hospital […] We have formed a cybernetics group for discussion – no professors and only young people allowed in. How I got in I don’t know, unless my chronically juvenile appearance is at last proving advantageous. We intend just to talk until we reach some understanding. (20 September 1949: 2624)

This is what Ashby wrote in his journal a few days after participating in the inaugural meeting of the Ratio Club in London. In particular, the idea of creating a “dining-club in which conventional scientific criteria are eschewed” so “these subjects can be discussed freely” came from John Bates (1949) who was writing this to


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W.  Grey Walter after attending a symposium on Physiological Mechanisms in Animal Behaviour at Cambridge University in 1949. When comparing the British movement with its American counterpart, the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, we can point to some important differences regarding its foundation and the members that attended. Whereas the seed of the Radio Club was promoted by two neurophysiologists, Bates and Walter, the forerunner of the Cybernetics Group (Heims 1991), the Princeton Teleology Meeting, was a proposal that came from two mathematicians, Wiener and von Neumann. Furthermore, whereas the Macy Conferences were chaired by McCulloch, himself a neurophysiologist, and attended also by psychologists and social scientists, the Radio Club included neurophysiologists, psychologists, and zoologists who were pioneers in introducing information ideas such as Horace Barlow, W.E Hick, and Thomas Gold. Lastly, unlike the core founding fathers of the Cybernetics Group, mathematicians only entered the Radio Club as an after-thought, “add a mathematician to keep everyone in check and stop the discussion becoming too vague” (Pringle 1949). In the case of Ashby, he had earned a BA in zoology, studied medicine, was employed as a psychiatrist, and, from his journal, we can say that he was familiar with the findings in experimental psychology and with Pavlov’s work on conditioned reflexes. Thus, it was the right environment for a young-looking “cybernetician” well-versed on two-thirds of the prehistory of cybernetics and willing to take his theory to the next level. And it was also the right moment give that Shannon’s (1948) theory of information had just been published attracting a lot of attention from the British movement. In addition, ethology was becoming stronger in the UK after one of its modern founders, Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907–1988), had moved to Oxford on the same year that the Radio Club was founded. This ethologist, who shared in 1973 the Nobel Prize in Physiology with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, published a very influential book that Ashby read immediately, The Study of Instinct (1951). Furthermore, the Cambridge symposium that preceded the Radio Club was organized by the Society of Experimental Biology after the suggestion of William H. Thorpe, a professor of ethology, who wanted to introduce Lorenz and Tinbergen’s research to the English-speaking world. The influence of information theory on Ashby was felt from the very first meeting of the Radio Club recorded in his journal as a “cybernetic note” that shows how he starts to think of stimuli-response from the ““information” point of view”. Moreover, one of the mathematician that entered the dinning-club, Philip Woodward, was “an extremely good lecturer, blessed with a gift for insightful exposition” who “gave several on information theory, which gave the biologists very early access to important new ways of thinking” (Husbands and Holland 2008: 26). But before those lectures started, Ashby was already adopting that new way of thinking and extending it to memory as we can see from a quotation related to fairy tale, The Tinderbox (1835), in which there is a tree with three chambers hosting precious coins warded by three dogs that appear when the magic tinderbox it is struck once, twice, and three times, respectively.

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As if he had just discovered a new science and in allusion to Cerberus, the multiheaded dog warding the gates of the underworld, in the Greek mythology, Ashby wrote: With this quotation I open the science of Cerberetics, for we can deduce that these cereberi must of necessity possess memory organs with a span of at least few seconds. For without memory, all three dogs must have turned up at the first stroke. (10 October 1949: 2628)

In parallel, Ashby started to realize that he had to give due importance to the environment. the multistable system is not totally isolated – that some of its effective parameters are not always constant – and that their occasional change can be expected to displace the representative point from its resting state […] We no longer think of the ultrastable or multistable system as being the whole in itself: we think of the situation as being the whole universe divided into: a) Multistable system and b) Parameters. The latter being “all the rest”. (2 October 1949: 2631–2633)

Before that moment, he had been treating the multistable system “as being almost all neural”. Thus, the transition away from the “properly isolated” system had just started. But the possible hypothesis of adaptation by ultrastability had not changed, “the parameter changes shall result in changes which keep the animal’s variables stable” (Ibid: 2633). It was still about change to another resting state of the multistable system. However, there was a new way of thinking that started to emerge related to the “world of average behaviour”. He was thinking in developing a “new statistical mechanics” different from “the present day statistical mechanics”. It would include, in addition to “many theorems on stability in absolute systems”, “many special features” he was now learning about such as information and memory. This new field was to become the neo-cybernetic synthesis which depended on thinking in terms of input-output rather than stimulus-response to avoid separating perceptual (Gestalt) and behavioural patterns (habits). Indeed, after reading Berkeley’s (1949) Giant Machines, or Machines That Think, he understood that “all machines built so far are built on the same general plan” in which the storage of the computer is placed between input and output (March 1950: 2782). But what goes on inside the animated machine was suggested to him thanks to a “meeting at the Society of Visiting Scientists’ where one of the members of the group, Thomas Gold, used the scheme “input, main transformer, output, and each part a ‘coder’”. He distinguished between ‘lower-order’ codes, i.e. simple transformations like letter-toletter codes, and ‘high-order’ codes, where extremely complicated transformations occur. […] By this treatment, if the environment is added, we must regard the process of adaptation as a process of “information” going through endless codings until it reaches-what? This point of view doesn’t get anywhere. (24 March 1950: 2785–2786)

This is the first time that we see Ashby linking adaptation with information though he will need some time to think this through in order to come up with a final solution some years later. In the meantime, he started to learn more about the essentials of information theory such as the so-called Markov chain, “one whose ‘memory’ does not extend beyond the previous instant”, and even carrying out some


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experiments with English prose trying to predict the next letter or word based on the previous one, which reminds us to how Markov (1913) discovered that stochastic process by analysing probabilistically the sequences of words in Pushkin’s novel Eugene Oneguin. And he recorded another insightful moment in his journal anticipating his final theory. I must notice one fundamental principle, not hitherto stated: all improvement in performance is obtained solely by destruction of the less good. From my point of view, improvement is not a growth of goodness  – it is solely a destruction of badness. So when an improvement occurs in performance, we ask simply what will be destroyed? by what? and why? (26 May 1950: 2838–2839)

Ashby now had all the elements he needed to solve the puzzle of adaptive behaviour. If something must be destroyed to improve performance, it means that something is conserved. The crucial moment came when “I attended a four-day conference on Information Theory at the Royal Society, chief speaker Shannon”. After discussing with him a hypothetical experiment, he realized that “the system that does not generate information is identical with an absolute system” (30 September 1950: 2991–2992). However, it was when relating his terminology with information theory that Ashby saw a perfect correspondence between “parameters as ‘inputs’ and field-characteristics as ‘output’. We then say that the output of information is exactly equal to the input of it”. And concluding that the “absolute system conserves information” (29 October 1950: 3013). Crucially, the absolute system that conserves information corresponded to Shannon’s “noiseless transducer”. What Ashby meant was that the absolute system is state-determined because the output at every moment is determined by an input so from observing the former we can deduce the latter. Conversely, if the output was not determined by the input, the absolute system would not conserve information. This suggested “that the brain must be so arranged anatomically that all inputs and ouputs go in pairs” (16 January 1951: 3074). That is, if inputs-outputs go in pairs, we cannot separate perceptual inputs from behavioural outputs in studying the adaptation of cybernetic systems. Of course, this new way of thinking started to cause some puzzles for Ashby. If he wanted to retain the essential variables, these had to be coupled to the perceptual component, so rather than being purely physiological such as body temperature, he had to find correlate such as “pain perception”, for instance. Now he had to accommodate the essential variables somehow into the new conceptual framework. However, other psychological phenomena did make more sense such as the “threshold” level of some stimuli below which there is no response which to Ashby it could mean that the brain is destroying “fresh information [that] is coming in all the time” (5 February 1951: 3106). In the case of learning, he could explain how animals destroy or retain information based on whether their hypothesis informing trial and error failed or succeeded. Furthermore, this also suggested to him that he had to give up a deeply held assumption related to his overemphasis on homeostasis, keeping essential variables within limits. So far I have always assumed that pain or injury must be cause of step-function changes and of adaptation, and I was vaguely disturbed by the evidence that animals some to be more

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taught by delight and pleasure than by pain. How, I thought, can ‘pleasure’, with the essential variables at the centre of their ranges, cause breaks? I now see that such phenomena can easily be accounted for if we assume that the higher animals have an inborn feedback mechanism. (19 February 1951: 3131)

Indeed, Ashby was replacing change of resting state with change of way of behaving resulting from a feedback mechanism reporting satisfaction. However, if the absolute system is a noiseless transducer that conserves information, how could he make sense of an adaptation process related to a change of information? That is, if the feedback mechanism was adding extra-information into the absolute system, how do we explain this apparent contradiction? Well, noiseless transducer cannot generate extra-information as it carries only two inverse operations that do not add information, encoding and decoding. Furthermore, according to Ashby, the fact that the absolute system corresponded to the transducer also meant that both of its parts, the organisms and its environment, were acting as a transducer and, thus, one part must be the inverse of the other part. The environment is a ‘transducer’ in the sense of Shannon (p.26). So also is the multistable system. Is not the one the inverse of the other? A Shannon ‘inverse’ is one that, if the first [the environment] has turned AEMT to PXTBF, [the brain] will turn PXTBF to AEMT. So if a transducer turned the vector (1, -5, 2) to (4, 3, -1), its inverse must turn (4, 3, -1) to (1, -5, 2) […] All adaptation is thus ‘decoding the environment’. (27 September 1951: 3499–3500)

However, “decoding the environment” also happens with a fixed behavioural pattern that is released by innate perceptual pattern as if the organism and its environment complement each other. We saw this when explaining how motivation processes originating in the organism were satisfied by reflex processes coming from its environment. In this case, “the ‘information’ that is transformed in the transducer is primary one that specifies the state of the essential variables, for instance, ‘comfortable’ at (0, 0, 0, 0) or ‘uncomfortable’ at (-4, 8, 0, 0, -5)”. Indeed, according to him, this is the type of information that keeps the essential variables within limits. Crucially, Ashby also acknowledges “A second type of information that is equally important is that related to the success or failure in the past” (27 September 1951: 3500). These two types of information can be conserved but cannot be generated by the noiseless transducer. But we are still left with the question, how does the second type of information enter the absolute system changing its ways of behaving? Ashby will now turn to ethology for answers even though he had always thought that fixed behaviour could not shed light on the problem of adaptive behaviour. We can also notice a change of emphasis in his diagrams regarding the essential variables which are now related to the environment. Instead of correlating perception to vital variables, the brain now responds to “a signal” “to restore the environment before the EV is called into action” (22 October 1951: 3520). Though Ashby did not seem to realize, adaptiveness was getting closer to information and moving away from ultrastability, and, therefore, the homeostasis of the organism was giving way to the stable equilibrium of the organism-environment system. We can only imagine his surprise when reading Tinbergen’s (1951) The Study of Instinct and learning


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about the reciprocal relationship between the organism and its environment in instinct behaviour. Many innate behaviours are in the form of chains, each element of which evokes the next. A clear example is given by the mating of the three-spined stickleback [fish], in which each partner’s activity evokes the other’s activity. […] At all this stages it has been shown that the reaction will proceed no further unless the next appropriate stimulus is given. (12 November 1951: 3539)

Furthermore, he makes a couple of remarks that are worth noticing after discovering his affinity with Tinbergen. He seems sound, and uses concepts and methods practically the same as mine. His discussions make clear that when we ask ‘what is the cause of this behaviour?’ we usually mean ‘what parameters are effective, and how their changes alter the behaviour?’. The other meaning of the phrase is ‘why has evolution developed the reaction?’; this can be answered by showing how it keeps the essential variables within limits. (Ibid: 3540)

Ashby is now convinced that the stability of the essential variables of the organism can be explained by the theory of evolution, that is, adaptation by natural selection. But also that other mechanism such as innate releasing mechanisms (IRM) had to be understood in terms of information theory. Tinbergen makes much fuss over this Gestalt property, but this is due to the fact that he does not fully realize how much transformation, coding, can go on before the effect reaches the I.R.M. […] If the sum [of stimulus] exceeds some threshold then […] [it] is fired and the whole instinctive patterns develops in action. Notice the way the organism works by forming a weighted sum of transformations. (Ibid: 3541)

His discovery of ethology was fundament in clarifying the role of evolution in relation to innate mechanisms, but there was still a question that persisted in the back of his mind. What about that extra-information that accumulates during the lifetime of an animal? Well, Tinbergen’s book also mentioned a curious example of learning discovered by Lorenz, the phenomenon of imprinting that occurs with new born geese. [These animals get attached to] the first moving creature they meet, another bird or even a human being. The learning takes only a minute, or even less. Once it occurs it has occurred it is irreversible: they will not change their habit even if immediately offered their own parents. (Ibid. 3542)

Of course, this mysterious case could not leave Ashby indifferent because it suggested a major gap in this theory. “Tinbergen’s book made me realize I have no objective definition of ‘memory’! […] I think it is about time I developed a rigorous definition. I don’t see it clearly yet; I must think it over” (15 November 1951: 3543–3544). Before giving such definition, he made another insightful remark after re-reading Tinbergen’s book, but this time it was to criticize his idea of a hierarchical organization of instinct. The hierarchical organization is not within the nervous system […] but is within the whole system of organism and environment, visiting each other alternatively […] This ‘hierarchy’ gives a very different picture from that usually envisaged. It explains at once why all the

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anatomical and histological searches have shown no obvious hierarchical structure in the nervous system. (2 January 1952: 3646)

Indeed, if he was to remain loyal to the functional relationship between the organism and its environment, the “functional levels” could not be found in the nervous system. However, this idea was against an emerging assumption in neurophysiology. As we are told by one of the two discovers of the physiological mechanism of arousal, Today, an increasing number of contemporary neural philosophers, Yakolev (1948), the elder Livingston (1954), Pribram (1958), Galambos (1959), and others have urged that fundamentally the adult as well as the embryonic central nervous system is vertically, rather than horizontally arranged. (Magoun 1958 [1963]: 13)

Furthermore, nowadays a hierarchical structure consisting of genes, proteins, pathways, sub-cellular mechanism, cells, tissues, organs, and organism is being assumed by systems biology (Noble 2006). Not to mention the hierarchy of levels in neuroscience that starts with from neurons and synapses to form neural networks resulting in behaviour which can be traced back to Szentágothai (1967, 1975). However, we will deal with the functional levels intrinsic to cybernetic systems in the section since Ashby did not develop this idea any further. Coming back to memory, at first he gave a very broad definition “anything or any way that will retain information” (31 January 1952: 3688), but then “it is to refer to way of behaving, not a thing or a trace” (12 May 1952: 3812). And he came up with an image of a possible case in which we would definitely observe a system with memory. We have to start with a regular system, that is, one in which we observe a line of behaviour under a given environmental parameter. Then, if we change the parameter and observe a change of behaviour that does not disappear when we return to the original parameter, then surely the system is displaying memory, but if it does disappear and returns to the original way of behaving, then the system has “no-memory”. A system with no-memory applies to physical or biological systems which always behave in a similar way under stable conditions. Furthermore, with a formal definition of memory, he could now make sense of another phenomenon, “‘habituation’ implies that memory is present”, which had to be distinguished from adaptation, “ultrastability has nothing to do with it; it is purely a property of systems with much memory” (23 May 1952: 3842). At last, even though Ashby could not provide a different concept of adaptive behaviour to replace ultrastability, he did manage to answer the question as to how extra-information from past success accumulates in the absolute system, because the system is a transducer with memory accumulating different ways of behaving.


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4.2.4  Last Period: Adaptation by Information Forgetting The fact that ultrastability was losing an essential component prompted Ashby to reconsider his theory of adaptive behaviour. If homeostasis as an innate mechanism of the organism is a phenomenon that can be explained by the theory of evolution, how are we to understand the stable equilibrium of the animal-environment system? Well, after re-reading his recent notes, he thought he had clue for a new concept of adaption. All the discussions […] are due to the fact that I want the machine to get its forgetting right. In one sense the forgetting might be said to be more important than the remembering; for without forgetting there can be no adaptation at all: memory merely prolongs the adaptation that skilful forgetting has constructed. (1 June 1952: 3860)

For him, now the next step was clear, “‘stability’ must be re-stated in terms of information” (30 June 1952: 3929), because “the business of living things is to destroy information” (2 July 1952: 3939). However, instead of moving beyond the homeostatic approach to adaption, he returned to the relationship between the environment and the essential variables using as many examples as he could find “showing how ‘adaptation’ means ‘destroying information’”. First, regarding the homeostatic mechanism, an organism such as a mammal is adapted if, by looking at its body temperature, we cannot tell if the weather is hot or cold, but neither record any changes in sugar-blood levels after glucose intake. Next, as to “cerebral, learning, mechanisms”, a person that is skilled at finding food will not give any signs of whether there is a famine or not, nor an expert boxer “of whether he had a fight in the street or not”. In short, if the information is destroyed because it does not show in a change of the essential variables, the homeostatic and cerebral mechanisms are adapted to the environment. Again, Ashby is trying to explain various examples of homeostasis and of stable equilibrium according to the principle of ultrastability and reducing a change of information to a change in the essential variables of the organism. In fact, as we mentioned at the end of the second period, it was only a week after Design was published that Ashby realized that his overemphasis on essential variables to explain adaptation was misplaced. So, building on the progress made in the third period, he went back to the idea of the brain responding to signals from the environment and converted environmental disturbances into information entering the system now consisting of the environment plus the brain. This will help him understand the consequences of letting the information enter instead of blocking it out of the system. And, crucially, “the environment is split” into two parts (3 October 1952: 4165, 4171): (1) environment “affected by the organism” and (2) environment “independent of the organism”. Likewise, just as he had done in the outline to a future book in 1943, he now divided the organism into (3) “brain”, meaning the nervous system with the receptors and effectors, and (4) “essential variables”. After his study of ethology, we can now associate this last component to the innate mechanisms evolved by natural selection such as homeostasis and IRMs.

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In so doing, Ashby was not only establishing the functional relationships between the organism and its environment but, without knowing, also mapping the domain of neo-cybernetics: physiology, the domain of voluntary and involuntary functions (3 and 4); ethology, instinctive and learned behaviour (1, 3 and 4); psychology, perceptual and behavioural patterns (1 and 3); and neo-cybernetic science, adaptive behaviour (1, 2, 3 and 4). Interestingly, he excluded the relationship between the essential variables and the environment “independent of the organism” which, as we now know, is a non-functional relationship that applies to evolutionary systems. Finally, to clarify (2) further, it refers to the cybernetic system’s input as being either neutral or disturbing which corresponds to either an experimenter observing a free animal in its natural environment or an intact animal in a controlled environment, respectively, that is, the animal keeping method of the ethologist or Pavlov’s conditioned reflex method. But in bringing forth the neo-cybernetic synthesis, it will not be enough to map the domain of this new science as that depends on a general theory of cybernetic systems. To avoid a possible misunderstanding, I should say that Ashby was not thinking in proving such a theory because he was more concerned with finding a comprehensive of adaptation that included Darwin’s theory of evolution as a special case something he struggled with from 19 August 1952 until 1 September 1953, the day in which he finally gave up that possible synthesis. After reconsidering the relation of Darwin’s work to mine […] I am beginning to suspect that the real relation is not that the Darwinian and the multistable systems each contain some ‘secret’ to be discovered, but simply that there is a large mathematical discipline of ‘large dynamic systems’. (1 September 1953: 4619–4620)

Eventually, in Introduction (1956) that hope would lead to a general theory of machines, that is, a “comprehensive” science that “takes as its subject matter the domain of “all possible machines“, and is only secondarily interested if informed that some of them have not yet been made, either by Man or by Nature” (Ibid: 2). Accordingly, cybernetics was made into a “theory of machines” that explains not only the “ways of behaving” of industrial machines built by humans, such as servomechanisms, but also of biological machines “built” by Nature, such as Darwinian and multistable systems. However, this was not the only concept of cybernetics he provided in his second book. “Cybernetics might, in fact, be defined as the study of systems that are open to energy but closed to information and control - systems that are ‘information-tight’” (Ibid: 4). So, if we understand by “information-tight systems” those systems in which there is an informational circuit between the organism and its environment, that definition only applies to cybernetic systems. And the subject matter of neo-cybernetics is adaptive behaviour rather than “regulation and control”. Interestingly, the notion of control will only enter the picture nearly a week before the end of 1952 as an afterthought on an unpublished Monograph on Evolution. In particular, at the beginning of the second part called “the study of very large systems”, the observer is separated from the system to be known (29 September 1952: 4141). Indeed, “‘Knowing’ a system means, ultimately, being able to control it” (23 December 1952: 4292). However, that part would eventually make it into the


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third part of Introduction (1956) devoted to “regulation and control” where we find his famous law of requisite variety. Anyway, did Ashby provide a general theory of cybernetic systems before that event? This is the crucial question we have to ask ourselves because the neo-cybernetic synthesis is dependent on a theory of adaptive behaviour that explains why information-tight systems are in stable equilibrium. The answer is that the extrainformation from past success that eventually enters the system by means of feedback requires the forgetting of information in order to establish a new adaptive way of behaving. This conclusion is unavoidable because if the amount of information in a system is constant, the only way to keep remembering the last successful way of behaving is by forgetting past information. In my opinion, this is what Ashby meant when he wrote the following. Information in a one-to-one transducer can be destroyed only by fed-in information […] only fresh accurate information can stop the information in α [input] from appearing at β [output] […] S [system] must be accumulating information (almost as if T [transducer] had an internal switch by which the information could be turned to β or to S). (12 February 1953: 4385)

And how is adaptive behaviour as information forgetting related to stable equilibrium then? Basically, the accumulation of one-to-one transformations in the system turning one state into another results in a state of equilibrium in a Markov chain which is independent from past states because its memory extends only to the last state. Again, Ashby also defined the output in such as way. “T is a transducer with inputs states x and output state z. Notice that the ‘output’ should not be taken for granted as the sequence of z’s. If we chose we can define it as “the sequence of equilibrial states visited by z (one state to each value of x)” (6 November 1953: 4673). In short, the adaptive behaviour of a cybernetic system is an equilibrium state resulting from remembering the latest successful output when fed-in information destroys past information. Paradoxically, Ashby’s answer to the fundamental question of neo-cybernetics cannot be found in any of the work he published in life, but his journal leaves no doubt about his great discovery. Whereas natural selection is the mechanism of evolution in the biological world, information forgetting is the mechanism of adaptive behaviour in the cybernetic world. The first discovery was made by Darwin (1859) and the second by Ashby who never published that great discovery and can only be found in an unpublished journal available online since 2008. In fact, this is a paradoxical situation because, to my knowledge, nobody has credited him for it not even Ashby himself. In his own opinion, his major discovery was his theory of adaptation published in Design (1952) and he even regretted that “I have done nothing to build up an association between the name of Ashby and the Theory of Ultrastability” (14 February 1956: 5252). That was written three months after having bridged the gap between his to books and concluding: “Ultrastability in Design and in Introduction reconciled” (15 November 1955: 5227). Thus, according to him, all that he had discovered could be found in those two books!

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Furthermore, there is no doubt that he was not aware of his major contribution to neo-cybernetics because after having made that discovery, he does not mentioned it anymore maybe because he had already found what he was looking for. On 3 November 1953, he formulated the law of requisite variety for which he is known, “only variation can force variation down” (Ibid: 4659). Unfortunately, in a few months, the science of adaptive behaviour had being forgotten and replaced by “the central theme of cybernetics- regulation and control” (Ashby 1956 [1957]: 195). Given that this is far from the fundamental question informing the present history of cybernetics, the neo-cybernetics seems a good term for the birth of a new domain of science different from the “cybernetic paradigm” which Ashby converted into just after discovering the theory of adaptation of cybernetics systems by information forgetting. To close this section, we can say that the prehistory and history of neo-cybernetics have evidenced a few things about that new domain of science. Its development depended on a world-hypothesis grounding the new discoveries made in each science. Moreover, each of them progress by focusing on different subject matter with occasional scientists willing to bridge them as in the case of Pavlov, behaviourism, Gestalt psychology, and physiological ethology, but it was only Ashby’s final answer to a fundamental question of adaptive behaviour that achieved the neo-cybernetic synthesis. And what they had in common was that they assumed the central-peripheral duality, that the organism is not separate from its environment, and, only Pavlov and Ashby, a different concept of time intrinsic to the cybernetic world, the pastpresent duality.

5  The Cybernetic World This final section is going to bring together the cybernetic world with its functional levels as it is far from a set of structures one building on top of each other as a superposition of layers or strata. No, according to this view, the universe would be a multiplicity of structures, and we would have a problem in explaining the mutual relationship resulting in the postulation of an emergent hierarchy of autonomous levels (Pretel-Wilson 2017). My main objection to this hierarchical organization is that, if higher strata are independent from lower strata, the universe would be far from being one single structure and more like a multiplicity of autonomous structures one emerging from the other. For instance, life would emerge from matter and mind from life, as seems to be assumed nowadays. If so, where would neo-cybernetics fit in this hierarchy of autonomous sciences? Surely, given the options, it would have to occupy the place of mind. Then, neo-cybernetic science would have to sacrifice physiology because the functioning of parts of the organism would fall within the domain of life, that is, biology. To avoid this trap, we could always say that a cybernetic system is a higher emerging whole non-reducible to the lower level interacting parts. The position of neo-cybernetics in the hierarchy of autonomous sciences becomes even more problematic if we assume that the cybernetic world


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emerges through evolution by the increasing complexity of matter. The conclusion is logically inescapable: the actual structure of the universe is far from being an emergent hierarchy of autonomous structures. Well, we can always give up the idea of a hierarchical structure by claiming that the cybernetic world forms a democratic structure. That is, we can deny that there are higher levels autonomous from lower levels and assume that all cybernetic systems mutually interact at the same level in which case there are no functional levels. This seems to be Ashby’s conclusion 11 months after saying that “the hierarchical organization is not within the nervous system […] but is within the whole system of organism and environment” (2 January 1952: 3646). For him, “the orders or levels of essential variables” in commercial organizations suggested so. This makes me realize, for the first time, that the multistable system is by no means sufficient to represent the nervous system or a big social organization adequately, for it is a pure ‘democracy’: no subsystem can get at, and alter, another subsystem’s goal-conditions. It therefore contains only one level. (3 December 1952: 4263)

Accordingly, there is one single functional level in the cybernetic world resulting from the mutual interaction between cybernetic subsystems. This democratic structure of the cybernetic world seems to be more in line with the modern worldhypothesis in which the behaviour of the whole results from the reciprocal interaction of the parts. Unfortunately, this also means committing to the principle of contiguity which assumes that bodies in the universe coexist next to each other occupying different subspaces. However, this principle is not something exclusive to a democratic organization but also intrinsic to a hierarchical organization in which higher wholes, emerging from the interaction of lower parts, coexist next to each other in different subspaces of an even higher emerging whole. That is, lower parts occupy subspaces within a higher whole and higher wholes bigger subspaces within an even higher whole until we reach the absolute universe encompassing the space-time continuum. Therefore, there seems to be no other possible logical option within modern world-hypothesis: either a democratic or a hierarchical organization. What about an entangled cybernetic world in which cybernetics systems share the same functional level working together? Can we start imagining the cybernetic world as one single spatial and temporal structure behaving together? If so, how does the cybernetic world fit together with the biological world if the latter has a different structure? Well, the relation between evolutionary and cybernetic systems is something that Ashby struggle with and concluded that “Darwin’s theory and that of the multistable system are related by intersecting in a set of theorems that contain both”. In other words, these are not mutually exclusive systems because “there is inevitably a good deal of overlap” (1 September 1953: 4620). However, if there was a complete overlap between the cybernetic and the biological worlds, Ashby’s attempts to find the correspondence between “adaptation in the brain” and “adaptation of the Darwinian type” would have discovered that the multistable system was only a special case explained by the more the general theory of evolution. On the contrary, after comparing the “abstractions” of the Darwinian system with that of the multistable system, he was convinced: “Stop. Already the

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M.S. and the D.S are sufficiently different that any resemblance can be accepted only after careful checking” (17 October 1952: 4205–4206). In fact, I doubt that there will ever be any scientist more interested than Ashby in finding the exact correspondence between these two domains, but he had to give up that hope after countless failed attempts. Furthermore, as we remember, it was while providing the first comprehensive list of correspondences between “Mendelian theory” and “distributive theory” that he made a note at the bottom of the table saying: “Be careful here: on the left the effect is commonly parametric, while on the right the environment is part of the system” (19 February 1945: 1890). In my opinion, this was the crucial evidence needed to set them apart as different domains of science. But Ashby did more than just confirm that biological and cybernetic systems only overlap partly, as he was able to draw the territory of a new domain of science by dividing further the organism and its environment in order to map their functional relationships within the system and introducing a disturbance from without the system that could change its way of behaving. And, by doing so, he was actually leaving out biology, because the relationship between biological systems and the environment is non-functional. Of course, this does not mean that neo-cybernetics is autonomous from biology and physics because cybernetic system partially overlaps biological and physical systems. This is due to their sharing together of spatial and temporal dualities intrinsic to other types of systems. In other words, when we say that cybernetic world has its own intrinsic spatial and temporal structure, it does not imply that the spatial and temporal structure of physical and biological systems disappears as if something new emerged with its own independent laws differing from the intrinsic nature of rest of the universe. On the contrary, the “laws” of physics and of biology apply equally to the cybernetic world. What about the functional levels in the cybernetic world? Well, every functional level of an entangled cybernetic system is constituted by the same intrinsic structure and shares the same intrinsic structure of the biological world. In the case of innate behaviour, for instance, there is no learning during the lifetime of a cybernetic system so any change in innate reflex processes comes from the evolution of the genetic code of the species. Therefore, this is a good deal of overlap between cybernetic and evolutionary systems, and, hence, the laws of biology apply to every functional level of the cybernetic world. But in neo-cybernetics, we are maximally interested in adaptive behaviour that is not genetically programmed and that depends on the existence of an innate feedback mechanism between the organism and its environment reporting success. So it is time to look at the information circuit between the organism and its environment. As we said when introducing Ashby’s idea of adaptiveness as stable equilibrium, he resisted the idea of limiting the relationship between the organism and its environment to one single functional circuit, and not accepting this fact gave him some headaches when assuming multiple “feedback circuits” in machines whose “the parts rise to even as few as four, if every one affects the other three”.


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When this circularity of action exists between the parts of a dynamic system, feedback may be said to be present. […] [However], the concept of "feedback", so simple and natural in certain elementary cases, becomes artificial and of little use when the interconnexions between the parts become more complex. (Ashby 1956 [1957]: 53–54)

Surely, this also means that the information circuit we are dealing with only applies to cybernetic systems not to mechanical systems such as his “automatic homeostat”. However, one interesting feature of the concept of the machine with input is that it can be disturbed from without the system. As we saw when introducing the functional relationships between the organism and the environment established by Ashby, the input from without the system was equivalent to that part of the environment “independent of the organism” that it is different from its environment, that is, the environment “affected by the organism”. This input is not part of the stable equilibrium between the organism and its environment, but it can change its way of behaving becoming part of the environment affected by the organism. In terms of the informational infrastructure, an entangled cybernetic system shares the same information circuit corresponding to a functional level shared by multiple cybernetic systems working together. Another possible implication of Ashby’s theory of adaptive behaviour is that the more information circuits corresponding to different functional levels, the longer it will take to change its way of behaving because the more information will need to be forgotten by fed-in extrainformation from without the system. Conversely, the change of behaviour of an entangled cybernetic system with less functional levels is much faster because it will have to forget less information. In fact, this great scientist did have something to say about the speed of adaptation of a cybernetic system which suggests that it is related to its history of past trails. 1) Just as getting adapted needs a series of trials, so discovering how to get adapted quickly needs a series of adaptations. 2) The discovery therefore is going to take a longer order of time than a single adaptation. 3) Any system that adapts quickly probably has a long history of trials behind it. (2 December 1952: 4256)

So the implication would be that an entangled system has more chances of adapting faster because it can accumulate more extra-information from past adaptations given that its history coincides with that of the functional level shared by cybernetic systems working together. This raises a question that we have not discussed so far because we have assumed all along that a cybernetic system is an organism with its environment that accumulates adaptations during its lifetime. But the history of trials of an entangled cybernetic system can extend beyond than that of the cybernetic systems sharing the same functional level. Ashby (1956) also mentioned another phenomenon related to experience which could put at risk the adaptive behaviour of cybernetic systems, the so-called law of experience in which “information put in by change at a parameter tends to destroy and replace information about the system’s initial state” (Ibid [1957]: 139). We are now able to understand why this happens in the light of the past-present concept of time intrinsic to cybernetic systems. If cybernetics systems could recall all the past adaptations which they have accumulated as extra-information in their memory,

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they would adapt easily to similar disturbances experienced in the past. However, if the system is exposed to a constant input which becomes part of its regular environment, the last successful way of behaving gets reinforced at the expense of accumulated extra-information from without the system which tends be forgotten with time. In other words, habituation and adaptive behaviour are inverse processes. Whereas habituation is about remembering a regular input by forgetting extra-information from without the system, adaptive behaviour is about remembering extra-information by forgetting information from within it. Ashby found a good way to describe the phenomenon of habituation, If a system is subjected to an input, its behaviour will tend to depend more and more on the history of the input, and less and less on which state was initial. This is an important principle. Summary: The effect of the initial state decays with time if some parametric input is active. (4 February 1952: 3707)

If we apply this principle to entangled cybernetic systems, the accumulation of extra-information from past adaptations could be lost if it is exposed to the same regular environment during a long time. So, to maintain a state of equilibrium, the cybernetic system cannot remain isolated from disturbances for long time. But this situation seems to be more the exception than the rule in the cybernetic world. Indeed, if extra-information is always accumulating in entangled cybernetic systems, then the part of the environment affected by the organism is never separated from the environment independent of the system. In short, cybernetics systems rarely live in isolated environments unless they are forced to do so. Maybe we should finish this section by saying something about how the “laws” of the cybernetic world apply to the human world given they also overlap. What did Ashby have to say about this? So far, we have mentioned things that are typical of the human world but absent from the cybernetic world to indicate that Ashy was aware that his theory did not apply to these examples, but he did work out some implications for our world once his theory took its final shape in 1953. An evolving system needs long-term memories, as well as short, or it will lose in a moment what it has built up over extended trials. […] Society needs such long-term memories too. Religion acts somewhat in this way though not exclusively, for a persuasive preacher, or a new prophet, can cause a great change in a short time. Another repository of factors that can be changed only slowly is the law […] [and] the large commercial organization. (14 January 1953: 4374–4375)

Indeed, if we look at entangled systems in the human world, the Catholic Church, the modern state, and corporations stand out as long-lived organizations with an extended history of trails. And the reason why these systems can only change slowly is because the rate of change depends on the ration between long-term and shortterm memories. If the system only accumulates a short history of trials, it will require less time to replace long-term with short-term memories and, thus, can change more rapidly than if it has to forget a long history. In relation with this idea, Ashby made an insightful remark with implications in his field of practice as a


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professional psychiatrist. “Notice that to modify a complex organization with a long history, that cannot be altered, is the aim of psychotherapy” (2 December 1952: 4257). I will not pursue the implications for psychiatry any further, but it may mean something for the field of systems practice. Indeed, it is generally acknowledged that the purpose of systemic interventions is organizational change, but it is rare that we find any scientific theory informing systems practice. An exception is the case of the viable system model (VSM), a guide on how to organize a human system to manage variety effectively, which is based on Ashby’s (1956) law of requisite variety and Stafford’s (1972, 1979, 1985) theory of viability. But can we replace his Ashby’s Law with Ashby’s theory of adaptive behaviour by information forgetting to inform systems practice? Indeed, if adaptive behaviour is an equilibrium state that results from forgetting long-term with short-term memories, then the purpose of systemic interventions may be to help the organizations achieve a stable equilibrium with their environment. And, as for Ashby’s opinion on organizational change, “Big present-day commercial and social organizations already have had much experience; they would not need organization ab-initio, only modification” (2 December 1952: 4257). And the last implication for the human world of its overlapping with the cybernetic world is that the boundary of the environment affected by the human world coincides with the functional level of the cybernetic world. In short, the organizational structure of human world completely overlaps with that of the cybernetic world.

6 Conclusion The history of the neo-cybernetic synthesis has demonstrated how the grounding of a new domain of science depends on a world-hypothesis making possible its unification and how science can go astray after a great discovery has been made if a new world-hypothesis is wanting. The main character of this history, Ashby, discovered a general theory of adaptive behaviour just before converting to the “cybernetic paradigm” of communication and control in the animal and the machine established by Wiener. In fact, the name of Ashby is remembered for having written the first textbook on cybernetics as the science of regulation and control and for his law of requisite variety. However, from Ashby’s journal made available in 2008, we can read a different history. He wrote the foundational paper of neo-cybernetics as the study of adaptive behaviour in 1940 before the seminal paper of the “cybernetic paradigm” appeared in 1943 thinking in terms of teleological mechanisms displaying predictive behaviour. The marriage between engineering and neurophysiology will also seduce Ashby who wanted to test his theory of adaptation by ultrastability with machines built by him such as the “automatic homeostat”. His primary concern, however, was not the design of machines: “what I have wanted is to know how the brain worked” (14 February 1956: 5253). For Ashby, the “problem of the brain”

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was to discover why cybernetic systems maintain a stable equilibrium. That is the reason why he wanted to design machines displaying ultrastability something analogous to natural selection in the evolutionary world. But the domain of science he was trying to make sense of was completely different from modern biology. In addition, his final theory was neither his early homeostatic approach to adaptation nor a theory of machines. Indeed, Ashby was influenced by Cannon’s notion of homeostasis which he could not leave behind that easily and regulation and control did enter at “the end of the hunt”. Fortunately, the beginning and the end of the history of neo-cybernetics could not overshadow the fact that he had made a major discovery which cannot be found in any of his papers or major works for which he is known. How is this possible if the progress of science is based on the published work? Indeed, Ashby’s scientific legacy can be found in his Journal (1928–1972), from 1939 to 12 February 1953. In fact, he developed his theory in solitude, and when he contacted the founders of the cybernetic movement, Wiener and McCulloch, they either did not take much notice of him or questioned his foundational ideas. “I am inclined to believe that the theory should not be phrased in terms of any sort of equilibrium” was McCulloch’s (1946) opinion. However, eventually, he did receive a good review for Design (1952) from both fathers. Another irony of the humble man who wrote “that I am not interested in “success” and in fact shrink from it” was that his great discovery was eclipsed by his growing recognition in the cybernetic community and of the “cybernetic paradigm”, as the beginning the first chapter of Introduction (1956) testifies. Cybernetics was defined by Wiener as "the science of control and communication, in the animal and the machine" – in a word, as the art of steermanship, and it is to this aspect that the book will be addressed. Co-ordination, regulation and control will be its themes, for these are of the greatest biological and practical interest. (Ashby 1956 [1957]: 1)

Another coincidence was that Ashby’s major discovery in 1953 was made while approaching the law of requisite variety as if it was a logical step on the way to discover something else. In his mind, the isomorphism between those two ideas was so close that he would write the following as a summary of that discovery: “Regulation (destruction of information) requires extra information” (12 February 1953: 4387). However, whereas Ashby’s Law is related to regulation and control in machines, information forgetting is the mechanism of adaptive behaviour in cybernetic systems at the core of Ashby’s neo-cybernetic synthesis.


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