Atlantis wrote:The problem is awareness. Are we capable of transcending the rational thought processes of our temporal existence or are we limited to the straightjacket of our rational mind? If the latter is true, then we can never gain any knowledge. Our field of vision is the sharper, the narrower its focus, but by narrowing the focus, we lose sight of the whole. If we want to determine the location of a subatomic particle with absolute certainty, we cannot know its velocity, and vice versa.
What is your sense of what the whole is or being able to maintain a sense of it?
My impression is the whole here is that of the absolute immediacy of things, experience not mediated by language which breaks down the conceptual barriers of language, between subject and object.
But this but a moment or part of consciousness ...https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/txt/being1.htm
Being is the immediate, that is, un-mediated, given in itself and not by means of something else. But right from the outset, Hegel makes it clear that "neither in Heaven nor on Earth" is there anything that is not equally mediated as immediate. "Being is immediate" is not an absolute, but a relative truth. To elevate it into an absolute (like the ancients and like the gurus of "awareness") is one moment or stage of the Absolute Idea.
and I think you correctly note the focusing in of the mind but you seem to denigrate the necessity of analytical thought as a precondition in fact for conceptualizing a whole with richer concepts.
Is not a word already a generalized concept that goes beyond any immediate limited experience and begins the process of a concept already developed by generations of people.
Any word is a theory. To name an object is to apply a concept to it. Admittedly, by means of the word we wish to comprehend the object. But each name, each application of the word, this embryo of science, is a critique of the word, a blurring of its form, an extension of its meaning. Linguists have clearly enough demonstrated how words change from being used. After all, language otherwise would never be renewed, words would not die, be born, or become obsolete.
Finally, each discovery in science, each step forward in empirical science is always at the same time an act of criticizing the concept. Pavlov discovered the fact of conditional reflexes. But didn’t he really create a new concept! at the same time? Did we really call a trained, well-learned movement a reflex before? And it cannot be otherwise: if science would only discover facts without extending the boundaries of its concepts, it would not discover anything new. It would make no headway in finding more and more new specimens of the same concepts. Each tiny new fact is already an extension of the concept. Each newly discovered relation between two facts immediately requires a critique of the two corresponding concepts and the establishment of a new relation between them. The conditional reflex is a discovery of a new fact by means of an old concept. We learned that mental salivation develops directly from the reflex, more correctly, that it is the same reflex, but operating under other conditions. But at the same time it is a discovery of a new concept by means of an old fact: by means of the fact “salivation occurs at the sight of food,” which is well known to all of us, we acquired a completely new concept of the reflex, our idea of it diametrically changed. Whereas before, the reflex was a synonym for a premental, unconscious, immutable fact, nowadays the whole mind is reduced to reflexes, the reflex has turned out to be a most flexible mechanism, etc. How would this have been possible if Pavlov had only studied the fact of salivation and not the concept of the reflex? This is essentially the same thing expressed in two ways, for in each scientific discovery knowledge of the fact is to the same extent knowledge of the concept. The scientific investigation of facts differs from registration in that it is the accumulation of concepts, the circulation of concepts and facts with a conceptual return.
In Engels we find a good example of the presence of abstractions and the participation of thought in every scientific fact. Ants have other eyes than we have. They see chemical beams that are invisible to us. This is a fact. How was it established? How can we know that “ants see things that are invisible to us”? Naturally, this is based on the perceptions of our eye, but in addition to that we have not only the other senses but the activity of our thinking as well. Thus, establishing a scientific fact is already a matter of thinking, that is, of concepts.
To be sure, we will never know how these chemical beams look to the ants. Who deplores this is beyond help [Engels, 1925/1978, p. 507].
This is the best example of the non-coincidence of the real and the scientific fact. Here this non-coincidence is presented in an especially vivid way, but it exists to a certain degree in each fact. We never saw these chemical beams and did not perceive the sensations of ants, i.e., that ants see certain chemical beams is not a real fact of immediate experience for us, but for the collective experience of mankind it is a scientific fact. But what to say, then, about the fact that the earth turns around the sun? For here in the thinking of man the real fact, in order to become a scientific fact, had to turn into its opposite, although the earth’s rotation around the sun was established by observations of the sun’s rotations around the earth.
By now we are equipped with all we need to solve this problem and we can go straight for the goal. If at the root of every scientific concept lies a fact and, vice versa, at the basis of every scientific fact lies a concept, then from this it inevitably follows that the difference between general and empirical sciences as regards the object of investigation is purely quantitative and not fundamental. It is a difference of degree and not a difference of the nature of the phenomenon. The general sciences do not deal with real objects, but with abstractions. They do not study plants and animals, but life. Their subject matter is scientific concepts. But life as well is part of reality and these concepts have their prototypes in reality. The special sciences have the actual facts of reality as their subject matter, they do not study life as such, but actual classes and groups of plants and animals. But both the plant and the animal, and even the birch tree and the tiger, and even this birch tree and this tiger are already concepts. And scientific facts as well, even the most primitive ones, are already concepts. Fact and concept form the subject matter of all disciplines, but to a different degree, in different proportion. Consequently, general physics does not cease being a physical discipline and does not become part of logic because it deals with the most abstract physical concepts. Ultimately, even these serve to know some part of reality.
The matter is of course how one gets past the analytical grounding to a synthesis, one has become conscious of the parts but many false problems occur in trying to put back together what have been abstracted as independent of each other.
Marx summarizes such a process quite succinctly...https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm#loc3
If I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.
Because in this process, there are abstractions which are more 'concrete' in that they better reflect the essential relations and nature of a thing. https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/chat/index.htm#abstract
So in short, ‘abstract’ means simple, and isolated from connection with the whole, whilst ‘concrete’ means the combination of many abstractions.
So how one begins to grasp the whole is of course impossible if one is confined to analytical thinking, but it sets the stage for a synthesis that allows one to penetrate past inessential attributes and abstract what is particular to a thing not as an isolated object independent of other objects but as underpinned by a universal particular. That is, instead of abstracting the sameness/likeness of things, one identifies the real particular thing which explains all other particulars. It contains the qualities of the larger phenomenon to be examined.
It was Goethe who came up with this concept
of a concept that is also empirical in nature that allows one to penetrate into the nature of a thing due to containing all the essential properties of the whole.How can we grasp a process as a whole?
This doesn't lead to some unified sense of all of reality, finding the particular unit of analysis is always a pressing task in different fields. To know one isn't to know all as they all require the work of analyzing and then synthesizing concepts before one can identify the particular in some case.
So while reason is seen a limiting due to its capacity for narrow focusing in on things rather than attempting to hold all of reality in one's mind, that is at the same time it's strength and it's the ability to help construct actual knowledge of the world. To wish otherwise would be to wish to experience the perception of chemical beams by ants. And in using concepts that are developed through generations, we always engage in the knowledge that is beyond our individual temporal existence, as we can, ideally access the wealth of humanity's knowledge. You don't reinvent the wheel, you use it and go further because you already have the wheel.
-For Ethical Politics