The gravity of the situation

July 2024 Forums General discussion The gravity of the situation

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  • #117273
    moderator1
    Participant

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    #117274
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Here's Anton Pannekoek (writing in 1938) on what we are doing (and what we are not doing) when we talk of "gravity" and its "laws" (it's from Chapter 3 of his book on Lenin As [Crap] Philosopher):

    Quote:
    Gravity, physicists said, is the cause of falling. Here cause is not something preceding the effects and different from it; cause and effect are simultaneous and express the same thing in different words. Gravity is a name that does not contain anything more than the phenomena themselves; in denoting them by this word we express the general, the common character of all the phenomena of falling bodies. More essential than the name is the law; in all free movements on earth there is a constant downward acceleration. Writing the law as a mathematical formula we are able to compute the motions of all falling or thrown bodies It is not necessary now to keep the phenomena all in our head; to know future cases it is sufficient to know the law, the formula. The law is the abstract concept our mind constructed out of the phenomena. As a law it is a precise statement that is assumed to hold good absolutely and universally, whereas the phenomena are diversified and always show deviations which we then ascribe to other, accessory, causes.Newton extended the law of gravity to the celestial motions. The orbit of the moon was “explained” by showing that it was pulled by the same force that made stones fall onto earth; so the unknown was reduced to the known. His law of universal gravitation is expressed by a mathematical formula through which astronomers are able to compute and predict the celestial phenomena; and the result of countless predictions shows the truth of the law. Scientists now called the gravitation the “cause” of all these motions; they saw it as a reality floating in space, a kind of mysterious imp, a spiritual being called a “force” directing the planets in their course; the law was a command somehow present in nature which the bodies had to obey. In reality there is nothing of the sort; “cause” means the short summary or compendium, “effect” means the diverse multitude of phenomena. The formula binding the acceleration of each particle to its distance from the other ones, expresses in a short form exactly the same course of things as does a lengthy description of the actual motions. Gravitation as a separate something pulling and steering the bodies does not exist in nature but only in our head. As a mysterious command permeating space it has no more real existence than has Snell’s law of refraction as a command to the light rays on how they have to go. The course of the light rays is a direct mathematical consequence of the different velocity of light in different substances; instead of by the command of a law it can equally well be represented by the principle that light, as it were an intelligent being, chooses the quickest route to reach the aim. Modern science, in an analogous way, in the theory of relativity renders the motions in space not by gravitational force, but by prescribing the shortest road (the “geodesic”) in the distorted four-dimensional space-time. Now again physicists came to consider this warped space as a “reality” behind the phenomena. And again it must be stated that, like Newton’s gravitation, it is only a mental abstraction, a set of formulas, better than the former, hence more true, because it represents more phenomena which the old law could not explain.

    The same goes for gravitational waves. It too "is only a mental abstraction, a set of formulas, better than the former, hence more true, because it represents more phenomena which the old law could not explain."

    #117275
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB, post #14, wrote:
    …the phenomenon always existed…
    ALB, post # 17, wrote:
    …It too "is only a mental abstraction, a set of formulas, better than the former, hence more true, because it represents more phenomena…

    [my bolds]Please tell me that you recognise that these are two contradictory statements, ALB.Either a 'phenomenon' 'always existed' (ie, 'exists' outside of any consciousness)…or a 'phenomenon' is 'only a mental abstraction' (ie. requires a consciousness to 'exist').You really don't seem to understand what these epistemological debates are about, ALB.The former belief is Engels (objective 'existence' outside of any relation to consciousness) and follows the bourgeois ideological separation of 'being from consciousness'.The latter belief is Marx (and, at least partially, Pannekoek) and requires the relationship between 'being and consciousness' to produce the 'phenomenon'.Science is a socio-historical activity concerned with producing knowledge, and so 'truth' can be changed, as Marx argued; scientific knowledge is not a passive reflection of 'eternal phenomena'.You really should try to understand the differences between your two statements, because the secret of your own coming to consciousness lies in that self-understanding.

    #117276
    LBird
    Participant

    Some food for thought, for those opposed to ‘politics in physics’, on the context of the emergence of this longstanding bourgeois view of the relationship between science and politics. This is a view which Communists should replace with one that argues for the democratisation of all science and truth-production.

    W. Schafer(ed) Finalization in Science (1983) pp. 252-3, wrote:
    The traditional relationship between science and politics was based upon a historic compromise worked out in the mid-seventeenth century. The New Science of “experimental philosophy” relinquished all of the moral, political, educational and social aims established for it by Bacon, Comenius, Winstanley and many others in the early-seventeenth century. The absolutist state rewarded the renunciation of the ideals of science as a radical project for socio-political reform with the offer of wide-ranging privileges for “pure” natural science; the founding of the Royal Society in London(1662) and the Academie Royale des Sciences in Paris(1666) formed part of this process. Royal support for the New Science was paid for by separating science from politics.

    [my bolds]http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789027715494/finalization-in-science/This was the historical point at which a social class pretended to remove 'consciousness' from any relationship with 'being'. It did so to renounce radical political thought in physics.Marx pointed out that this relationship between the two is inescapable for humanity, in its active production of scientific knowledge.Unless both the historical emergence and class basis of bourgeois physics is recognised, then we workers will remain in thrall to bourgeois ideology.The ruling class always seek to eternalise their rule, and they do so too in physics, just as in any other social activity.

    #117277
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    Pannekoek wrote:
    Now again physicists came to consider this warped space as a “reality” behind the phenomena. And again it must be stated that, like Newton’s gravitation, it is only a mental abstraction, a set of formulas, better than the former, hence more true, because it represents more phenomena which the old law could not explain.

    From the way this bit is worded, with emphasis on the word "reality", I get that Pannekoek recognises the phenomena we know as gravity to demonstrate a consequence, but that it does not itself exist in "reality". That the descriptions given to such phenomena are best efforts to describe something that is perhaps beyond description.    

    #117278
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I don't think he put the word "reality" in inverted commas to emphasise it but, rather, to say that it wasn't really "reality".  Pannekoek was not arguing that there was nothing out there independently of consciousness. For him, there was and this was "the continuing, ever-changing world of phenomena" as a whole. That was all that "existed", the only reality if you like. A "phenomenon" was a part of this. What was a mental abstraction was not the phenomenon but the namings and descriptions of it by humans. This is well explained in easy-to-follow terms in that chapter 3 of his book (here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1938/lenin/ch03.htm ).So the "gravitational waves" that have now been detected rather than just predicted will be a mental construct, but not the phenomena this term and the theory behind it are attempting to describe/explain. They will long have existed as part of reality, for more than a billion years according to the estimates.

    #117279
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    The bit that L Bird seems unable to comprehend is that the understanding (i.e.. the model, in this case the theoretical model of gravity) is produced by human consciousness and as such reflects all of the various influences, specific and general, human experience brings with it. HOWEVER that model or view or theory etc. created as it is by human consciousness is ultimately based on a reality processed by the individual, the group, the social class, etc. We can alter our perception of reality, we can alter our understanding of reality, what we cannot change by thought alone, is the reality itself. What L Bird appears to be suggesting is that matter only exists when observed by a human, whereas the truth is that human perception of reality only exists when humans perceive reality. In addition to this L Bird seems to suggest that the only factor in human perception is social Cass, whereas this is far from the case, for instance does reality change because an individual with schizophrenia observes it. In terms of understanding the basis of human cognitive development he may be better served reading Bowlby and Vygotsky!

    #117280
    LBird
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    That the descriptions given to such phenomena are best efforts to describe something that is perhaps beyond description.

    You're missing a subtlety here, SP.The phrase 'description given to phenomena' suggests that the 'phenomena' exist outside of 'description'.But the 'description' describes a 'phenomenon' that is created by the interaction of 'consciousness and being'.The alternative, that somehow a 'description' is a passive copy, a reflection, of an 'objective phenomenon' leaves out any room for the 'active side' of human 'consciousness'.Marx argues that we create our object.So, 'the descriptions given to such phenomena (ie our objects) are best efforts to describe something' we have created.The 'something that is perhaps beyond description' is Marx's 'inorganic nature', the externality from consciousness that provides a resource for our labour, our theory and practice.Marx argues that we 'metabolise' inorganic nature into organic nature, so 'phenomena' are our creation, and our descriptions of phenomena are thus objective descriptions of our objects.Thus, 'objective' for Marx means 'socially-objective' (and thus changeable by humans), and not 'objective' as a pretence that it reflects something out there.To claim that 'phenomena' exist outside of consciousness, and we know those 'objective phenomena' is to fall for bourgeois ideology, and to believe, as YMS does, in 'Eternal Truth' of 'gravitational waves', and to end any hope we have of 'changing' the world. If the world is now 'known', it is fixed. And this fixed world would be the one created by the bourgeoisie.

    #117281
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Pannekoek was not arguing that there was nothing out there independently of consciousness.

    No-one is arguing that is 'nothing out there independently of consciousness'.There is, according to Marx, 'inorganic nature', from which we actively create 'organic nature'.Since materialists see any talk of 'consciousness' as 'idealism', they are forced to pretend that Marx denied the active role of critical and creative human consciousness, and they follow Engels in claiming that 'matter' is the 'active side'.

    #117282
    LBird
    Participant
    Tim Kilgallon wrote:
    The bit that L Bird seems unable to comprehend is that the understanding (i.e.. the model, in this case the theoretical model of gravity) is produced by human consciousness and as such reflects all of the various influences, specific and general, human experience brings with it. HOWEVER that model or view or theory etc. created as it is by human consciousness is ultimately based on a reality processed by the individual, the group, the social class, etc. We can alter our perception of reality, we can alter our understanding of reality, what we cannot change by thought alone, is the reality itself. What L Bird appears to be suggesting is that matter only exists when observed by a human, whereas the truth is that human perception of reality only exists when humans perceive reality. In addition to this L Bird seems to suggest that the only factor in human perception is social Cass, whereas this is far from the case, for instance does reality change because an individual with schizophrenia observes it.

    [my bold]Tim, you're still arguing for the bourgeois ideology of 'passive reflection', based on a pre-existing 'reality', which can be detected by an 'individual', and that Marx claims 'thought alone changes'.On the contrary, 'consciousness', by the method of 'theory and practice', creates the 'reality we know'.No-one argues that 'thought alone changes reality' – Marx argues for 'theory and practice'.Humans do not 'perceive reality' – that is 'passive observation' or 'contemplation', which Marx opposes.Humans create their reality by actively creating it by theory and practice upon 'inorganic nature', which produces our objective 'organic nature'.That is, humans create 'matter'.'Matter' is a social product of the interaction between consciousness and being.The bourgeoisie deny this creative power to humans, and pretend that they alone have a method to observe and describe 'the obejctive world'.

    #117283
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Can i mischievously suggest that we apply LBird's workers' democracy to gravity, have a democratic vote that concludes gravity does not exist and then suggest he jumps from a top of a high building to prove that science is purely ideological and gravity does not exist if we vote it doesn't…  You know i'm only joking LBird…i'd miss you if you were gone…but i might be the only one it seems from the feelings of the forum. 

    #117284
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    "Since materialists see any talk of 'consciousness' as idealism' is a direct quote from L Bird. Very simple task for you L Bird, now back that statement up without any of the usual waffling, deviation, obfuscation, etc. you usually use.I would describe myself as a Materialist and I do not see "any talk of consciousness as idealism". That would be a ridiculous statement, not only that, I have never come across any other member of the SPGB in pushing 35 years of membership of the party state any thing of the kind. The statement is however typical of the specious arguments you put forward.

    #117285
    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    Can i mischievously suggest that we apply LBird's workers' democracy to gravity, have a democratic vote that concludes gravity does not exist and then suggest he jumps from a top of a high building to prove that science is purely ideological and gravity does not exist if we vote it doesn't…  You know i'm only joking LBird…i'd miss you if you were gone…but i might be the only one it seems from the feelings of the forum. 

    You're making a joke, alan, but it's clear from the usual contributions that no matter how many times I stress Marx's 'theory and practice', the materialists read 'theory'.They do so, because they have an ideology which tells them the knee-jerk reaction to any claims for 'consciousness', even Marx's 'theory and practice', the active relationship between consciousness and being, is to call that 'idealism'.So, they read 'theory and practice' as 'theory'.Every time.

    #117286
    LBird
    Participant
    Tim Killgallon wrote:
    I would describe myself as a Materialist and I do not see "any talk of consciousness as idealism". That would be a ridiculous statement, not only that, I have never come across any other member of the SPGB in pushing 35 years of membership of the party state any thing of the kind. The statement is however typical of the specious arguments you put forward.

    So, Tim, what ideology do you employ in physics?That is what 'talk of consciousness' implies – that you will reveal your social consciousness, which you employ when you create your object.This is neither 'ridiculous' or 'specious'.I keep asking materialists to reveal their ideology, and they refuse.I then reveal their ideology, and point to the page of the pamphlet which contains its origins…… and that revelation and evidence is ignored, and I'm called an 'idealist', just as you did, earlier.You think Marx's 'theory and practice' amounts to 'theory' – you said so, earlier.

    #117287
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    Again L Bird, misrepresentation and sophism. There is nothing in my statement to back up your claim that I am arguing for "passive reflection", as illustrated by my statement that theory is produced by"human consciousness and as such reflects all of the various influences, specific and general, human experience brings with it." As such theory, understanding, existence, experience, knowledge, etc. begins from the moment we are conceived. We develop mental representations of the experiences, not merely through cognition, but through feeling, instinct, language, number, etc. creating what Kelly, Beck, Piaget, etc would describe as schema. At any moment in time our "intelligence" can be described in terms of our developing accommodations and perceptions, none of which are final. This does not equate with passive reflection.Humans do create their own reality, by the way, where yours came from is anybody's guess, however this reality cannot be as you state "objective" that is:"based on real facts, and not based on personal beliefs or feelings" or ""dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings"It must by definition, actually by your definition, by subjective.You then go on to leap to the conclusion, that through this process of the creation of our "objective organic nature", (which as stated must by definition actually be subjective), humans create matter! I do create matter, but afterwards I usually wipe my arse and flush it away, I suggest you might do the same with the shit you produce.

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