Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reality 3: Five Tables, How Many Realms?

The real lesson to be learned from the principle of complementarity, a lesson that can perhaps be transferred to other fields of knowledge, consists in emphasizing the wealth of reality, which overflows any single language, any single logical structure. Each language can express only part of reality. 
–Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos
In Reality 1: Kuhn and Harman I took Harman’s argument for three tables, following Eddington’s argument for two, and suggested that we have five tables, thus:
Going back to that pesky Eddingtonian table, I count the one real table (withdrawn) and four manifest (sensuous in Harman’s terms, intentional in more traditional phenomenological terms) tables: 1) sensory-motor, 2) Newtonian, 3) quantum, and 4) Einsteinian.
Now that I’m explicitly exploring the notion that an abundant universe gives rise to multiple Realms of Being, do I locate each of these tables in a different Realm?

I don’t know.

First, let’s set aside what I identified as the real table, the one that’s always withdrawing. Second, let’s say that the sensory-motor table belongs in what I’ll call the Mundane Realm. That’s the Realm of everyday life as lived in sensory-motor phenomenal terms and as conceptualized in common sense terms. I suspect that there’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to bother with further clarification.

What about the Newtonian, quantum, and Einsteinian tables? Since each of those tables is conceptualized within a specific scientific paradigm each should receive the same treatment. We’ve got two choices. Locate all of them in a Realm called Science or Western Science, or locate each in a Realm that is paradigm-specific: the Newtonian Realm, the Einsteinian Realm, and the Quantum Realm? No doubt there are issues to be discussed, but I’m simply going to opt for paradigm-specific Realms on the grounds that those paradigms are incommensurate, to use Kuhn’s well-known term.

At this point, it seems to me, that we need to consider a Latourian augmentation. Latour has repeatedly argued for retaining explicit awareness of the apparatus, experimentation, conceptual processing and documentation involved in scientific life. I think that he is correct in that. Further, it seems to me that that implies that, e.g. the Quantum Realm contains not only the table as characterized by quantum mechanics but also quantum mechanical scientific system—the apparatus, experimental procedures and protocols, etc. And so with the Newtonian and Einsteinian Realms.

That no doubt requires further discussion, etc. But I want to blitz through this.

What about the so-called real table, the withdrawn one? The obvious possibility is to posit a Real Realm consisting of objects beyond any sensory-motor apprehension or conceptualization. And perhaps that how things stand, just so.

However, in my post, From Objects to Pluralism, I expressed reservations about the language of withdrawal in favor of a language of abundance, fecundity, and plenitude. If I wish to continue honoring that preference, then it doesn’t make much sense to now identify Real Reality with perpetual withdrawal. What to do?

How about I say that the real table is the “envelope” of the sensory-motor, Newtonian, quantum, and Einsteinian tables, with the provision, of course, that it is not limited to them? That does the work that I had been doing with the table of withdrawal, namely, it establishes an identity among those tables while, while avoiding the language of privation and absence implicit in the notion of withdrawal. Instead, by identifying the reality with a conjunction of the specific realms, we can affirm the language of abundance, fecundity, and plenitude.

What then should we call this Realm of Realms? Reality? That is to say, is Reality the envelope of existing Realms of Being?

I need to think about that. The thinking’s going to get really interesting if, for example, I conclude that we need to have a Realm of Fictions (Latour has proposed one). I’ve already all but concluded we need at least one such Realm, and most likely more than one. They too would have to be included in the envelope of Reality.

Reality as a Realm of Realms. Seems promising. Do we have the conceptual equipment needed to construct it?

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