The Strangeloop, Metaphysical Models and Reality
November 9, 2012 2 Comments
We often hear from those dominated by the notion of “science” so-called that models of reality can never be a grand narrative again, as well as that the conceptual framework utilized to explain the world cannot be extrapolated onto the “external world” with certainty due to the “fact” that the explanatory models themselves are purely human conceptual frameworks. Explanatory models are not true, we are told, because they have explanatory power. Thus, Newtonian physics is no longer accurate because it breaks down at the subatomic level.
From Kant onwards, the West has adopted the mistaken notion that no mental framework can accurately and with firm certainty be predicated of external reality. This perceived wisdom dominates academia, particularly in scientific circles. Epistemology is a no man’s land because Kant has purportedly demonstrated that empirical knowledge can never penetrate the noumenal realm. But is this true?
This is all poppycock and hogwash, and every argument the so-called scientific establishment uses to foist this upon nubile, young college minds is utterly flawed bullshit. In fact, the claim that all conceptual models are only models is itself a foundational conceptual claim that purports to position its arrogant pontificator in a place of high epistemic privilege. “We just don’t know,” it spews forth, “whether the concepts in our minds match up to the actual facts of the external world.” However, following this flawed train, it also follows that we don’t know that our claims of a lack of knowledge are accurate. In other words, to say all models of reality are flawed because they cannot demonstrate that they obtain for the objects of perception is equally applicable to the universal claim that “all models of reality are flawed and cannot certainly obtain for the external world.”
In fact, the purveyor of this bad argument is generally unaware of basics of linguistic philosophy. Linguistic philosophy, in fact, points directly back to the reemergence of metaphysics. But metaphysics is what modernity doesn’t want to talk about, due to the still dominant Enlightenment phantom empiricism. Though enlightenment empiricism has been refuted a thousand times over, like bin Laden, it magically seems to emerge from the philosophical grave to wreak intellectual havoc. And now, a whole crop of “New Atheists” who harp all day about the outdated classical arguments for theism furiously slap away at keyboards resurrecting the outdated arguments for classical empiricism and materialism. So much for intellectual honesty.
One simple way to refute the above fallacy with linguistic philosophy is to show that the very symbols used by the so-called skeptic of models is that the usage of language itself requires a complex set of metaphysical preconditions which must obtain for the very possibility of language at all. I have written about this before, but it functions well here as a refutation of this common error.
Consider this claim:
“All models of reality are purely human-devised mental constructs that help us explain reality.”
Every letter in this sentence is a symbol which stands for reality. Each grouping of symbols on a higher level stands for a more specific concept. “A” combines with “L” and “L” to have a definite meaning. Meaning itself becomes a focal point of metaphysical difficulties that any empiricist must avoid like the plague. Yet the desire to avoid metaphysics because they are tough for your own faulty model is not how truth is obtained. When the three letters are combined, the concept of all models becomes clear, and when all the symbols are combined, we have a universal statement about a given state of affairs in the world. Even if this statement is to deny that we know about given sets of affairs in the world, it is still, at a base level, a factual claim about states of affairs that have obtained. On another level, it also makes a sweeping claim for a universal state of affairs.
It purports to say all human models are flawed. If all human models are flawed then one can have no linguistic philosophical basis for statements about statements themselves, inasmuch as a self-referential statement about statements is still a statement about a given state of affairs. In essence, this claim attempts to have a privileged position from which to sound humble – claiming that models of reality are only mental realities that cannot be shown to correlate to reality. Yet the action of making this statement, even if turned in on itself and analyzed as self-referential amounts to saying the following:
“All statements about models of reality are humanly devised construct models about models.”
This is nonsense from the perspective of the enlightenment rationalist that would be forced to espouse it, but it does illustrate that there is a strangeloop that occurs in these kinds of phenomena, as Douglas Hoffstadter wrote about in Godel, Escher, Bach. Kurt Godel showed in set theory that any statement about a set can only be made within set theories. One cannot find a set theory basis for set theory. It loops back upon itself – a strangeloop. But strangeloops are not only true of mathematics and useful for refuting the Bertrand Russells of the world who tell us that reality is reductionistic (that we can encompass everything in mathematics or materialism). On the contrary, what Godel said about sets is well-known for those who have studied presuppositional apologetics or who have read about worldviews or who understand Husserl’s phenomenology. In fact, it is precisely those materialistic sciencey Russell types that so dogmatically tout logic and mathematical reasoning.
And now you’ve had your ass handed to you because the logic of logic is a strangeloop. The logic of logic demonstrates that in this dimension you do not have a privileged position from which things of this nature are not self-referential. The math of math shows that numbers do correspond to reality. They are not purely human mental entities or constructs. The logic of math that Husserl sought after is precisely the fact that essences will, and must return, as Pauli said. Meaning demands telos – purpose. And that purpose demands more than a finite mind constructing all its eventualities. But it is this fact that points everything literally to an Omniscient Mind – to God. And that is what men do not want to see, and they will be tuck in the wheel of the loop of this world until they do.