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SPINOZA IN DRAG & A LETTER TO LEONARD SUSSKIND (ARTICLE FOR SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN)

February 11th, 2012 | Posted by Dick in My Letters - published & not | Papers | Papers - Things Of Reason | Papers - Things of Understanding | Philosophy

IN BRIEF
 Things jump out of the symmetry of energy as holograms and true ideas are immanent not transcendent.
 Philosophy is the definition of things and science is the demonstration of things. The two disciplines are complementary.
 Since he made mathematics the measure of all things [not man or god], the first philosopher of modern science was Baruch Spinoza
                     

                          SPINOZA IN DRAG: (Dressed In Modern Science)

     Scientists and philosophers clothe themselves in the foundations of knowledge. Historically, however, they have dressed up their ideas differently. Scientists tend to put on empiricism and study the things that exist in our universe.
     Until recently, philosophers chose the ancient fabric of metaphysics but lately have been choosing either the underwear of logical analysis or the fashion design of language and its concepts.  Bertrand Russell, a pioneer in logical analysis said most theorists start in the middle of theories because that is the easiest place but it is very difficult to start at the foundation of the theory.
   Russell had this problem as he sought the foundations of knowledge in mathematics and logic rather than things we experience in the world. However a 17th century philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, who, Russell said, was “the noblest and most loveable of the great philosophers,” began with: “The first thing which constitutes the actual being of a human mind is nothing but the idea of a singular thing which actually exists.”
   You cannot really make sense of Spinoza without relating his ideas to concepts of modern science, such as quantum theory, information theory, neuroscience and cosmology. Unfortunately Spinoza clothed his ideas in the fabric of metaphysics and his discussion of things was much misunderstood.
   However, some scientists are not especially good philosophers as the absurd idea of TOE-hold (Theory Of Everything), indicates. So scientists need Spinoza’s ideas as much as he needs theirs. These ideas led me to the 5 E’s of existence.
The 5 E’s of Existence are: 1) Energy 2) Entropy 3) Entanglement 4) Eternity 5) Equality.
   Here is a cursory outline of Spinozian meditations on the foundations of things:
Definition:
 1) Things are an expression of the energy that generates the  universe                                                 
  2) Energy is a singularity inside all things that gives them work to do (’work to do’ is the definition of expression’)  Energy is the Alpha & Omega. A point that has no part, eternity and NOW (pages of unpacking needed).
  3) Only things and their actions are in time & space.
  4) Things inform animal brains that they: a) are b) are a certain kind of thing (essence)  c) are in relation with other things (equal/not equal, part/whole). This information is generated in the mapmaking and dispositional processes of the brain and body.
  5) The evolved human brain turned relations into mathematics/logic. It also turned relations into language from which the reflective self emerged, distinguished by reason, feeling and understanding. Emotions are a reaction of the animal relations of the brain.
  6) Since things in the universe are entangled (i.e. both yes & no), energy is always accompanied by entropy. This is the whole of information. Energy is conserved, i.e. always present while entropy is the dark matter that will cause all things to return to the singularity of energy. All human ignorance is caused by entropy. (pages of unpacking needed).
  7) Things began to be seen as objects to use and not just objects to react to in order to survive. This is the blessing (energy) and curse (entropy) of human behaviour and can make us the only unnatural things in creation.
  8) Human culture began. (So social scientists could have jobs).
   *NOTE – Thomas Heath in his commentary for the Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements says:
“…A definition asserts nothing as to the existence or nonexistence of the thing defined. It is an answer to the question what a thing is…and does not say that it is…”  What exists has to be unpacked by demonstration.
 Aristotle describes a demonstration as:
     “Now that which is per se necessarily true and must necessarily be thought so, is not a hypothesis nor yet a postulate. For demonstration has not do to with reasoning from outside but with the reason dwelling in the soul, just as is the case with the syllogism. It is always possible to raise objection to reasoning from outside but to contradict the reason within us is not always possible. “ 
*   *   *
SPINOZA: First Philosopher of Modern Science
 Spinoza says our common language of means and ends (and its gods) 
 ”…would have been sufficient to keep the human race in darkness to all eternity if mathematics, which does not deal with ends but with the essences and properties of forms  had not placed before us another rule of truth.”

 We report our observations of things in one of two languages; either with words (signs) that picture the relations of things or the language of mathematics.  Euclid said of the latter: “The laws of nature are the mathematical thoughts of God.” The language of words, (propositions) can be made clear and more precise through logic but at its best, language can only be artistic expressions of our beliefs about things.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “We do not realize that we calculate, operate with words and in the course of time, translate them sometimes into one picture, sometimes into another.” There is a gap between what we know and what we can express in words.
 George Boole in his Laws Of Thought said we first fix variables to things, operate with things, mathematically by adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing them into parts or combine them into a whole. Then we observe these relations among things and turn them into propositions. Incipient mathematics is probably the first language of the brain.
 Words are ways we picture the means and ends of what we want from things in nature whereas mathematics studies the very form of things in nature. Mathematicians are the priests of nature. This is why mathematics is the language of science.
 However there is a problem with mathematics; formal truths must be turned into concepts to create actions. That is why we need words. The discovery of great ideas in the history of humanity is like the ‘once upon a time’ of fairy tales.
 For instance; Once upon a time, a young mathematician worked as a clerk in a patent office surrounded by new technical devices for measuring time and he discovered space/time.
 Or; Once upon a time a young physicist saw an equation on a chalk board by the mathematician, Leonard Euler. He went home, studied the equation and co-discovered string theory.
 Some scientists have said these ‘once upon a time’ discoveries are the result of synchronicity. But that is a notion that is too mystical to rely upon. As we will soon discover, Spinoza gave a much better explanation.  So let’s tell another ‘once upon a time,’ story.
 In 17th century Amsterdam a wealthy Portuguese Jewish merchant had a young son, Baruch Spinoza, who was studying the Torah to become a rabbi. Inquisitive, in addition to his religious studies, Spinoza read works of Jewish philosophers such as Ibn Ezra, Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) as well as books of wisdom brought by the Jews to Holland.
 Spinoza discovered Euclid and Aristotle. The former became his mentor while he had a love/hate relationship with the latter. Wanting to learn Latin, which the Jews demeaned, calling it ‘the priest’s language,’ Spinoza went to study Latin under Francis van den Enden, a free thinker who introduced him to physical science and Descartes.’ Because of his thinking, Spinoza was excommunicated and forbidden from having contact with other Jews.
 Consequently, Spinoza was thrown into the intellectual community of free thinkers who existed in Amsterdam. They became his friends and sometimes followers.
 The philosopher, Giles Deleuze, called Spinoza the ‘prince’ and ‘Christ’ of philosophers. We can give Spinoza one more title: ‘The First Philosopher of Modern Science.’ In his lifetime Spinoza had only one book published under his name: Descartes’: Principles of Philosophy.  This book was notes made on Descartes’ Philosophy for a young scholar. Spinoza’s friends encouraged him to publish these notes.
 In his book, Spinoza pointed out a major error in Descartes’ thinking as well as that of the thinkers who preceded him. In fact this flaw still persists in many thinkers today. Correcting this error made Spinoza the first modern philosopher of science.
 While exalting Descartes’ methodology of science, Spinoza actually found two flaws in Descartes’ thinking. The first was comical.  Descartes’ located the seat of thinking in the pineal gland instead of the brain. His other error still reverberates in our time and is the source of the notion of the Theory of Everything.
 Spinoza turned Descartes’ Cogito Ergo Sum (‘I think, I exist’) on its head: ‘Things exist, therefore I think.’ Because we are things like everything else in existence, what we call true and real is immanent in us as in every other thing and not transcendent. Energy produces this work or what Spinoza called ‘true ideas’, in us.
 True ideas are what Leonard Susskind describes as holograms. [See: Black Holes and the Information Paradox by Leonard Susskind; Scientific American, April 1997]. While Susskind may not go this far, Spinoza can be understood as saying true ideas are holograms, that things in energy’s symmetry produce in us.
 This is symmetry that exists immanent in us but beyond time and space like Garret Lisi’s E8. [See: A Geometric Theory of Everything by Garrett Lisi and James Owen Weatherall; Scientific American, December 2010].
 Spinoza says things are actual in two ways for us: either as relations in time and place or as contained in God. The latter is the source of what is true and real in our thinking. Since, for Spinoza, ‘God’ and ‘Nature’ are two equivalent words for the same thing, he was not speaking of some transcendent deity that Descartes’ rescued from a deceiver status but rather the energy that lives in all things.
 Listen to Spinoza:
 “Intellect, by its inborn powers makes intellectual tools for itself and we have a true idea different from its object. In order to know that I know, it is necessary that I first know. Certainty equals objective essence. No other sign is needed but to have a true idea.
 A true method is the path where truth itself or the objective essence of things or ideas (all these mean the same), is to be sought in proper order. Method must necessarily be discourse about reasoning or intellection. Method is nothing but reflexive knowledge or the idea of an idea. There will be no method unless there is first an idea.
 Moreover, an idea is situated in the context of thought exactly as its object in the context of reality.”

 While the language is 17th century, the context is modern. Things jump out of symmetry as holograms (ideas) and inform the brain of their existence and essence.  It is these holograms which are the essence of the great jumps in the  thinking of humanity. Spinoza calls such jumps, ‘understanding.’
 “…the understanding is purely passive; it is an awareness in the soul of the essence and existence of things; so that it is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing but it is the thing itself that affirms or denies in us, something of itself.”

 I jokingly tell friends I can show them the face of God. I have an old TV that needs a box to be digital. I turn on the TV but not the digital box. On the screen, random and chaotic particles are accompanied by a noise that hurts the eardrums. This is an apt metaphor for the symmetry of energy. Just as chaos jumps into the pictures for the digital box, so do things jump out of symmetry for my brain.
 However, as Spinoza says:
 “Some things are in our intellect and not in Nature; so these are only our own work and they help us to understand things distinctly. Among these we include all relations which have reference to different things. These we call beings of reason.”
 
 Reason/intellect, Spinoza says, is not adequate to the attainment of our wellbeing “but…this kind of knowledge does not result from something else but from a direct revelation of the object itself to the understanding.”  Again, Spinoza is as modern as the last computer key that has just been hit by a scientist somewhere.
 For Spinoza, “beings of reason,” are always relative to the situation of the thinker in time and space. Spinoza was Einstein’s favorite philosopher and whether caught or taught, relativity may have germinated out of his readings of Spinoza.
 So we come to the difference between holograms (ideas) that jump out of the things of symmetry (what Spinoza called understanding) and what he called “beings of reason,” or knowledge relative to time and space. Wittgenstein said understanding is: ‘now I know how to go on,” but reason may also become: ‘This is my idea and it is mine! Here I stop and build my ostrich hole,’ as Charles Sanders Peirce parodied.
 Things jump out of the symmetry of energy to great thinkers as holograms (true ideas), but their followers build Towers of Babel out of these ideas, with reason. This is why Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions says each generation of scientists have to tear down the towers and rebuild.
 This is what happened to Descartes.’ His, ‘I think, I exist’ which he placed in the whole of a transcendent God became the rallying cry of humanists and is typified by Shakespeare’s: “Man is the measure of all things.”  These Cartesian, Tower of Babel followers, became enemies of Spinoza and along with religion and the shadow of the inquisition, stopped him from publishing his Ethics.
 Spinoza’s main enemies today are his Tower of Babel followers who label him a rationalist and dismiss as ‘immature,’ his main works where he laid his foundations of knowledge: Emendation Of The Intellect  and  Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being.
 After Spinoza laid his foundations, he expressed (as Gilles Deleuze understood), his ideas in ethics, religion and politics.  The Emendation and Treatise were not meant for public consumption but only for like-minded friends. Spinoza was a cautious man whose motto was, ‘caute,’ in a world where a dark cloud of religion spread its shadow over all attempts at reason and understanding.
 Spinoza was the first philosopher who understood that god or man is not the measure of all things but rather our measure of all things (mathematics) helps us to understand what is true and real. This is a measure made by finite beings in an infinite reality so we will never have a Theory of Everything and are only able to make the measure because things jump out at us as holograms or true ideas, (understanding).
 Scientists who seek a TOE HOLD (Theory of Everything) have mistaken this Tower of Babel for unification. Science has always proceeded by unification. The anthropomorphism from some string theorists today remind me of the dogmas of religion.
 Spinoza redefined science. He says science, “…does not consist in convictions based on reasons but in immediate union with the thing itself…Science…makes us enjoy intellectually what is in us…”
 Like Euclid, Spinoza believed the foundations of all thinking are in what Euclid called the Common Notions (axioms). Equal is the glue that holds all mathematics, logic and ethics together. The whole is greater than the part reminds us that what we call science today is only part of what jumps out of energy’s symmetry.
 Here is how Spinoza described energy’s symmetry:
 “This is what I had resolved to demonstrate concerning the mind insofar as it is considered without reference to the existence of the body. It is clear from this…that our mind insofar as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking which is determined by another mode of thinking and this again by another and so on ad infinitum with the result that they all together constitute the eternal and infinite intellect of God.” (Italics mine).
 
  Spinoza, like Wittgenstein, believed the meaning of words was their use in the language games we play. Consequently, he redefined words in common conceptual games. Let’s give his 17th century language its closest equivalent meaning in modern science:
 God (energy). Ideas (holograms). Thinking (physical information). Eternity (now/immediacy).  Mind/Soul (connection brain makes with things that press their existence and essence on it). True/Real (the whole of symmetry). Good & Evil (relations humans make which are not in nature). Creation (never happened, only generation or evolution did).  Human Existence (we existed before in a different form. 1st Law of Thermodynamics).  Sin (Entropy. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics).
 Spinoza said: “Now in the first place we have said that to God (energy), no modes of thought can be ascribed except those which are in his (its) creatures…” (Anthropomorphisms of pronouns are in English but not in Latin).
 Notice he does not say in ‘humans’ but ‘creatures.’ Like modern information theorists, Spinoza believed everything that exists, sends and receives information. A rock thinks God. His discussions on symmetry and information are similar to what Seth Lloyd describes as “It from bits” (quibits) in Programming the Universe and his article on Black Hole Computers, [See: Black Hole Computers by Seth Lloyd; Scientific American, November 2004]. But  symmetry is not bounded by space and time. Spinoza’s idea of symmetry is more like Garret Lisi’s E8.
 Spinoza, as the first philosopher of modern science made contributions in other areas such as neuroscience (see Antonio Damasio’s, Looking for Spinoza). For Spinoza, the information we receive in our understanding is an eternal mode of thinking. Eternity, he says, is not a concept of time and duration or beginning and end but this information is things in symmetry that jump out of us right NOW.
 We use reason to make sense of what we have received but it is always relative to our time and place and must return to understanding to be true and real. We have a word for this return: ‘inspiration.’ The Greeks called it, ‘demonstration.’
 I suspect Spinoza’s idea of eternity will serve as future material for scientific theories. Roger Penrose already appears to be exploring that area in his Cycles of Time, although it would have been better titled, Cycles of Eternity.
 The meaning of life can be summarized in two words: ENERGY RECYCLES. 
 Note: This paper is a definition, not a demonstration. Definitions attempt to tell us what a thing is but not that it exists. The latter must be demonstrated. Philosophers define ideas of things and their expression in language. Scientists demonstrate the existence of things and their relations. The two disciplines should be complementary, not foes.
 Not, as the dissertation chairman for my PhD said, (a hermeneutic philosopher), “You have gone over to the enemy,” when at age 46 I began seriously studying mathematics and science.
More To Explore
 Collected Works of Spinoza, trans & ed by Edwin Curley, Princeton, 1985
 Spinoza, Complete Works, trans Samuel Shirley, ed Michael Morgan, Hacket Pub, 2002
 Ethic of Benedict De Spinoza, trans W. Hale White & Amelia Stirling, Oxford, 1910
 My Blog: Has Philosophy Ignored Spinoza’s Theory of Science?  ww.http://dickdeshaw/
 

              Dick DeShaw 370 Barrie St Kingston On Canada K7K3T3
                    (613) 546-7056 – rdeshaw570@gmail.com
———————————————————————————————-
January 30, 2012 – Dear Professor Susskind:
 Several months ago I saw your lecture on the Big Idea’s program. You discussed holograms among other ideas. I bought the Black Hole War and completed my first of many readings of it. I am presently reading Cosmic Landscape.
 Enclosed is a paper for Scientific American.  It reflects how important to modern physics and cosmology are the ideas of the 17th century Jewish philosopher, Baruch de Spinoza, concerning the foundations of knowledge. Would you consider referring it?
 In 1983 I put my PhD dissertation in a shoebox and returned to my blue collar roots as a prison guard in a federal penitentiary. Consequently, the only peers I have are retired prison guards. Most of them are dead.
  I have a B.A. in philosophy/psychology, an abortive attempt at a PhD (1st time) where I worked nights at a gas station. Got good grades except for one C (which I deserved), lost my fellowship, went to work as a child abuse investigator. After 3 years, went back and got an M.A. in Sociology and began another PhD in Social & Political Thought. (See the note at the end of my paper for the result/ reason for the shoebox).
 Spinoza knew that all information is physical long before scientists discovered this truth. Consequently, the significant events in any thinker’s life can be placed in a Feynman diagram. Our bodies travel in a path until events result in the emission of photons, (understanding).
 While I will not draw the diagram, here is the procession of events that led to the writing of this paper: Left prison with PTSD??Spinoza??Euclid/Spinoza (Common Notions) ? George Boole/Euclid (Common Notions) ?Antonio Damasio (Neuroscience) ?Seth Lloyd (Information Theory) ?Leonard Susskind (Cosmic Landscape).
 I am at the beginning of the last event. Most modern scientists seem to be ersatz rationalists. Philosophy has labeled Spinoza a rationalist though he was anything but.  I suspect his use of ‘beings of reason,’ and placing symmetry beyond time and space but immanent in our lives, will be the main stumbling stones to acceptance of this paper. I still like the idea of Garrett Lisi’s E8 though I don’t know if his mathematics is sound.
 Thank you for considering referring this paper and for being an event in my life.

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