Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Philosophy of Common Objects

Science describes three classes of object. Here, I reduce objects to a description of their behaviours. It is on that basis that I define three classes of object. They are what I call, simply, the hideable, the non-hideable, and the superstitious, object.

The hideables can be hidden, that is their existence is not observer dependent. They are the material objects and those objects that are necessarily hidden - quantum events, that fall under the limits of observability. The idea that objects can be classed as hideable or not would directly support Popper's* view that science is the domain of the empirically falsifiable, as hidden objects obviously provide a source of doubt or falsification. Empirical is, in effect, the domain of the hideable.

Objects that are not hideable, hence not empirical or subject to falsification or Popperian doubt, are numerous and include colours, sounds, etc, or the Lockian secondary and tertiary properties or, again, phenomenological objects. I do not include these among the objects of science as there is no direct empirical means of establishing their existence even if these are employed in empirical investigation: measurement is always made upon the hideables.

The superstitious object comes as two types, typified by their social role. Both types - superstitious objects generally -  are exemplified by ontological "switching", by which I mean their behaviour alternates between the hideables and non-hideables. Like the latter, superstitious objects are non-Popperian postulates. I conceive two justifications for their occurence or creation though neither of the objects associated with them, I can only suppose, have been knowingly engineered as such by science or public, despite their regular, public, employment. These justifications are made on the basis of
1) discrediting mystical practices and ideas, and
2) imposing causal relationships upon non-physical associations.

Regarding  the object associated with 1), it may be perverse to suggest that any object could or ought to be created to serve a social demand and a bad demand at that, but whatever its dubious ontology we can examine the properties associated with it. The superstitious object, as a thoroughly disengenuous creation, is one of the pair in a Derridean privileged binary, in this case the natural/superstitious binary. Elements in a Derridean binary are asymmetrically profiled, where the element that receives the greater positive profiling  is "privileged" over the other. Here, the element, "natural", is privileged over the element "superstitious" on the grounds that it is shown by an examination of only the elements (natural and superstitious) themselves. However, and logically, a third source is required for a relative valuation of two independent elements. This source is found in a value system that is independent of, but supervenes on, the two elements in the binary. Such a system can be the set of values or taboos held by a culture, and is necessarily veiled to justify the value judgement. For example, the social application of a dogmatic materialism leads to the formation of a superstitious object configured in the natural/superstitious Derridean binary.

As an example we can use gods cause thunder. A social mileu that supports materialism, such as science, may want to impose physicality or hideable object behaviour on all object causal nexus. Such a construal if applied to gods immediately creates a superstitious object where non-material gods "switch" to material or hideable object behaviours and back.  This new superstitious object called gods exhibits reciprocal (A affects B, B affects A) Newtonian object causality while exhibiting non-Newtonian object behaviours in other scenarios, such as gods speaking to men. However, gods need not be a superstitious object exhibiting ontological switching: god-causality can be a metaphor for the inevitability of fate, or be an assertion built on or supporting the premiss of a reality whose material facts must be identified through a non-material identifying framework such as a Kantian transcendental idealism, or Wittgensteinian language game, or gods.

The superstitious object is not a mystical object it must quickly be noted. The mystical object does not "switch" and belongs to the non-hideables which vanish and appear without empirical redress: Lockian secondary, tertiary properties or phenomenological. For example, colours and gods cannot be hidden, they simply vanish and appear, and they cannot be empirically found.

2) The second supernatural object of science also seems to have bad parentage. This object finds a role in justifying certain theoretical posits in evolution theory and psychiatry and the neurosciences. For example, most conclusions of psychiatry and neuroscience regarding "causes" of mental illness are grounded on a reductionist didactic or connotation imposed on the brain/mind naming binary, where mind identifies brain objects. This imposition creates a privileged binary where the same two elements are now involved in a (bogus) epistemological exchange grounded on a Newtonian causality. To assert that an association (naming/identifying schema) between mind and matter is a reciprocal or Newtonian causality the mind must switch from one type of object behaviour to another, from the non-hideables to the hideables - hence becomes a superstitious object.

(* Popper:
But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation. In other words: I shall not require of a scientific system that it shall be capable of being singled out, once and for all, in a positive sense; but I shall require that its logical form shall be such that it can be singled out, by means of empirical tests, in a negative sense: it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience. (1959) )

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