World and Reality
11.1 Dilemmas about Reality
11.2 System Philosophy of Reality
11.2.1 Three Levels of World as a System
11.2.2 System Model of Ultimate Reality
Author’s main original ideas are marked by [*].
The mark [# ] gives the number of note at the end.
Within the hitherto parts of this book, we have discussed about the various doctrines of western philosophy and its application for the understanding of physical world, life and mind. So far our focus was on the area of epistemology, which is one of the two principal branches of philosophy. Now it is the right time to consider the other branch namely ontology or theory of reality that deals with the question: what is the reality or fundamental stuff of the universe? This presentation will be built upon the premise of the contents of second chapter fortified with the inputs from the subsequent ones.
We can realize at the outset that the eclectic term reality gets only very scanty mention in the books and dictionaries on philosophy as well as science and religion; such omission is due to the controversies and conflicts between the various conceptions about reality. Of course, we commonly use the word reality in the most abused and confused manner during various situations. Most of us talk about different kinds of realities, rather than the reality singularly.[# 1].
Let us begin our deliberation about reality by reiterating the role of philosophy in the landscape of human knowledge. Science, religion and art as well as certain combinations of these subjects are the macro areas of knowledge, pertaining to the study of the natural objects of universe in different ways. Hence, these subjects are qualified as first order knowledge. In contrast, philosophy is called the second order knowledge because it aims to unify the different first order disciplines.
Here it is important to clarify the meaning of reality by contrasting it with term phenomenon. We can define phenomenon as any object that depends on another object through cause-effect relationship. On the other hand, reality is the original cause of all phenomena taken as a whole. Accordingly, reality is self-caused, infinite and permanent. The terms like ultimate reality and ultimate truth are commonly used as synonyms of reality. In this situation, we want to develop ontology or theory of reality by asking the three questions:
Can we conceive reality as a being (substance) or process having existence?
What is the method of knowing reality?
Specifically, can we know reality by observing the features of phenomenal objects?
The first aim of our present discussion is to elucidate the reasons for the diverse notions of reality proposed in the history of western philosophy. Accordingly, the salient features of worldviews, as explained in chapter 2, will revisited. Then we would analyze those controversies through the insights of System Philosophy pertaining to physical and biological phenomena. We aim to find a new principle of synthesis, which would serve as the summit of our philosophical quest. [# 2].
11.1 Dilemmas about Reality
As noted earlier, the cognitive function of human mind has two main levels namely intellectual mind and mystical mind. We can divide intellectual mind into lower part called philosophic mind and upper part called scientific mind. These two faculties characteristically aim to combine abstract ideas with sensory experiences about diverse phenomena in an objective and logical way. We are familiar that this method of thought is applied in the case of scientific mind. So it is appropriate to say that the deliberations of philosophy can be qualified as superscientific way of thinking. In contrast, there are two divisions for mystical mind which uses metaphoric, imaginative and emotional way of thinking; these divisions are conveniently called as religious mind and artistic mind. [# 3][*].
The pursuit of philosophy, through superscientific manner, is primarily to explain the existence, development and evolution of the entire spectrum of phenomenal objects, so as to get a vision about the ultimate reality. Thus it tries to unify the diverse kinds of knowledge under science, religion and art in order to get an integrative view of reality. In other words, philosophy wants to achieve the comprehensive knowledge about the immutable principles underlying the phenomenal worlds.
Since the historical development of ontology in Greek thought has been indicated in the second chapter, it need not be repeated here. The ancient philosophers could distinguish between body and consciousness as the principal parts of a living being. In modern parlance, the fundamental constituents of body are matter and energy. Since it has been discovered in last century that matter and energy are inter convertible, we can use the word ‘matter’ to include energy also, leading to the statement that body is made of matter.
From the foregoing perspective, ontology begins by accepting the fact that the stuff of our universe has dual parts – matter and consciousness. The inference about the fundamental constituents of universe is based on the observation of phenomenal world. Is it proper to treat matter and consciousness as the dual forms of reality?
In the early stage of philosophical thought, philosophers found that the existence of two opposite realities is very problematic due to the following reasons. If the two realities – matter and consciousness – exist eternally and independently, then there cannot be any connection between them. This negates our daily observation that these opposite forces of reality cooperate and interact to produce the worldly phenomena. Then there must be a third reality for connecting these opposites; in that situation matter and consciousness do not appear to be realities in the first place. Consequently, the idea of two independent realities cannot be sustained.
In order to overcome the above problem of two realities, the ancient philosophers adopted the idea that one reality is superior to the other. Then they deliberated upon the question: which of the two fundamental constituents is more real? This led to the view that one of the fundamental constituents exclusively is the reality and that the other constituent has only dependent existence. Accordingly, exponents of ontology were divided into two groups – first group advocated that consciousness is reality while the second group upheld matter as reality. In this manner the rival groups adopt the view of monism, because it holds that only one of the fundamental opposites has real existence. The consequent set of ontological doctrines as a whole can be described as monistic philosophy. This nomenclature is an innovative idea of this book for distinguishing the erstwhile philosophy against the newly proposed System Philosophy. It is intriguing that, as we will explain in due course, our reference books paradoxically adopt the various notions like monism, dualism and pluralism in order to describe reality. [# 4][*].
For advancing further in the topic of ontology, it is necessary to consider the aspects of knowledge about worldly phenomena. As clearly explained earlier, the diverse disciplines under science, religion, art and other fields consist of laws formed through five stages such as theory, hypothesis, deduction, testing and inductive inference (denoted by Ty, H, D, T and I respectively). We propose, as an original idea, that the innumerable theories of all disciplines can be clarified using the notion of worldview. [# 5] [*].
Here we define worldview as the method for classifying the totality of theories in accordance with the perspectives of rational view, empirical view, content view and process view. Accordingly, a worldview is the set of common ideas found in the broadest family of theories. In other words, it contains the essential ideas of all theories having family resemblance.[# 6] [*].
Then we can arrive at the names of six worldviews adopted in the history of human thought. It enables us to systematically draw the landscape of numerous theories pertaining to value and fact in diverse fields of knowledge. The table of six worldviews as well as its description given in chapter 2 is adapted now to produce the 2×2 table as below.
Table 1: Six worldviews
Content view Process view
(W1) OWV – organic worldview for knowledge of value
(W4) Spiritual process worldview- rational (SPWV-R)
(W2) Mechanical worldview-rational (MWV-R)
(W3) Mechanical worldview-empirical (MWV-E)
(W5) Spiritual process worldview- empirical (SPWV-E)
(W6) Physical process worldview (PPWV)
Seven Theories of Reality
Now we will explain the bridge between ultimate reality and the set of theories of phenomenal world using the notion of worldviews. It is necessary to state the principle: our knowledge under a particular discipline is developed on the basis of theory. But theory is the expression of the particular worldview adopted. Now we can show that the various kinds of worldviews are based on separate notions of reality. Accordingly, there is an intimate relation between different notions of reality and the diverse forms of worldviews or theories under our knowledge about phenomenal things.
In this context, we state that the justification of a TyHDTI scheme depends on the concerned theory of reality. Saying in a different way, a worldview (the broadest set of theories with family resemblance) is justified on the basis of an appropriate conception of ontology. Here we link worldview and theory of reality through the function of justification.
The pioneering philosophers deliberated about the existence of reality, treating it variously as being, substance, person or process. They presumed that reality has existence because it is the original cause of all phenomena as a whole. Using logical reasoning as well as speculation, the concerned philosophers articulated the characteristics of reality so as to explain the origin and development of diverse objects of universe. This kind of philosophical thought is traditionally called as metaphysics. In this connection we introduce the concept of metaphysical realism. It is the position that when we know the attributes of reality through abstract or rational thinking, we can assert that such reality has existence. We will explain in due course that this argument raises serious philosophical issues in the wake of different notions of reality.
In the course of previous three millennia, the subject matter of philosophy flourished with diverse streams or branches. As a result, the question whether reality exists as being or process generated many controversies. The characteristics of reality also became confusing due to divergent interpretations. Consequently, the area of metaphysics was often developed without the specific use of the term reality. Though metaphysics or the deliberation about reality is the central concern of philosophy, it is an interesting fact that the concept of original cause is rarely mentioned in the philosophical books of modern era. We can infer that the neglect of the terms reality and original cause in the reference books as well as dictionaries on philosophy is mainly due to the shifting of focus from metaphysics to peripheral areas of the discipline.
Now let us reconsider the above table of six worldviews in order to list the theories of reality. In the case of OWV, MWV-R, SPWV-R, SPWV-E and PPWV, there are five theories of reality correspondingly. But in the case of Mechanical worldview-empirical (MWV-E), two different theories are proposed about the origin of physical world. First is the doctrine of materialism and the second is intelligent design argument (IDA). The latter has been explained in chapters 8 and 9. Thus we can list and classify the seven doctrines of theory of reality using the framework of a 2×2 table according to rational view, empirical view, content view and process view as shown below.
Table 2: Seven theories of reality [# 7][*].
Content view Process view
Rational view (R1) Idealism or Theism
(R5) Empirical Mysticism
(R3b) Intelligent design argument( IDA)
(R6) Physical Process Reality
A particular theory of reality is the cause for a worldview, which is the family of related theories. Hence every theory includes concepts about the unobservable features of reality as contained in the concerned worldview. Then the knowledge pertaining to any subject is formed by a TyHDTI scheme. Based on adopted theory, we can make appropriate hypothesis, in observational terms, which will be subjected to further stages of deduction, testing and inductive inference. In this situation, the forgoing seven doctrines about reality would serve as the justification for the different kinds of theories and inference (laws) constituting knowledge.
Philosopher conceives a particular theory of reality on the basis of deductive reasoning or inductive inference using past experiences of phenomena. To proceed further in our enquiry, the following questions about reality must be considered:
What is the source (faculty of human mind) responsible for the idea?
Can we assume that the said form of reality has existence? Or, what is the justification of a theory of reality itself?
Accordingly we would take up a concise review of the validity of the seven theories of reality in the following paragraphs.
Idealism or Theism
Idealism is the theory of reality corresponding to organic worldview, holding that nature (phenomenal world) is like an organism with good purpose or teleology. If universe is an organism, what is its realty? Here Idealism envisages that reality is a metaphysical agent or being who owns the ideas of purpose used for designing the natural things in a hierarchical order. This supernatural being is a supreme Mind.
The idealist thought, expounded by Plato, is a rational version of the religious belief prevalent in that time; it was polytheism abounding in mythological gods described under ancient Greek literature. The existence of gods and other supernatural beings was assumed using metaphysical (religious) realism. So the theology became the justification of idealist theory of reality. Plato wanted to focus on the abstract concepts about God, Soul and other metaphysical entities, expressed by deductive propositions, as true knowledge in religion. He held that such religious ideas are obtained through scientific reason or intuition, which is placed above the faculties of perception and intellect pertaining to the scientific knowledge about finite things. Consequently, the role of empirical aspects of religious experience is ignored; we may remember that Plato had relegated it to the lowest level called imagination.
When the religious view moved to monotheism pertaining to Judaism and Christianity, the corresponding ontology is called theism. In theist religion, God is conceived as the transcendent being with the attributes of omnipotence and perfection, which created matter and world out of nothing. In the context of Christianity, its theologians – mainly St. Augustine, St. Anselm and St. Aquinas – argued that intuitive ideas of religion are actually revealed by God. In this way revelation is treated as the function of scientific reason or intuition.
This way of defending Christian beliefs through scientific reason raised many philosophical controversies. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) famously trounced the validity of metaphysical realism on the basis of his dictum that existence is not a predicate. The existence of God cannot be proved by the method of scientific mind. Here we can assert that rational ideas about God are mystical ideas, which are not supported by scientific evidence. Moreover it is challenged by the problem of evil. So in the next section we will develop the scheme to avoid realism in the case of reality by holding that existence of reality is an inference; it is not part of theory or theology. In this way, the belief about the existence of God as supreme mind — the theory of reality under idealism — stands refuted. Subsequently, the advancements of atheism and the allied philosophical doctrines, such as logical positivism and linguistic philosophy, occurred within the context of science; it contributed heavily to the conflict between science and religion.
The doctrine called deism is the modification of theism in the context of mechanistic worldview and classical science built upon Newton’s laws of motion. The regularity and order of mechanistic world is interpreted by the religious view that the physical laws are given by God. The creator God is like an absentee landlord, since He does not interfere in the regular working of the physical laws. But the religious doctrine of deism admits the occasional occurrence of miracles, which are treated as the special interventions of divine power. This leads to the notion of God-of-the-gaps that is strongly despised by scientists.
In this context, it is instructive to mention about David Hume (1711-1760) who elaborated empiricism and wrote scathing remarks to demolish the deist theory. His main points of attack may be mentioned below:
There is no evidence that the universe is a perfectly designed machine.
The principles of empiricism show that the physical laws, including cause-effect relations, are the constructions of our scientific mind.
There is no empirical evidence about the existence of God, who is believed to be a metaphysical or supernatural being. Hume holds that fear and other human feelings are the roots of religious beliefs.
A great number of men join in building a house or ship. So it is more reasonable to think about a group of gods, rather than a single God.
There is so much chaos and disorder in this world, which do not support the view about a perfect and loving God.
The critique of David Hume, together with the earlier mentioned view of Immanuel Kant, emphasizes the drawbacks in the deist conception of God.
The ontological theory pertaining to the classical science, advocating that matter exists basically in the form of atoms, is called materialism. But the existence of atoms can be known only through empirical properties like weight, volume, smell and motion observed in the things of physical world. That is, matter is defined as the substratum of all sensible properties of things. In the course of further development of classical science, materialism was expanded to the study of living beings. In that context, the term naturalism came into more popular use, replacing the word materialism. Accordingly, all aspects of nature, including inanimate as well as living phenomena, are to be explained by resorting to the physical laws pertaining to the movements of matter. This is a mechanistic conception of nature without recognizing any nonphysical or supernatural force.
As per materialism and naturalism, mind is a by-product, or epiphenomenon, of material activities of the components of body, just like the smoke produced when a locomotive works. This theory about the relation between mind and body is called epiphenomenalism, according to which all emotions and ideas come from physical processes of nervous system, mainly brain.
The philosophical analysis of the empirical theory of reality in the context of classical science leads to skepticism that the real existence of matter cannot be known. How can the inference about the existence of matter be justified when pure matter (atoms) is unobservable as such? This problem is similar to the drawback of idealism. To overcome this issue, the concerned philosophers adopt the position of naïve realism as the theory of justification. This is a practical principle, which holds that the empirical properties indicate the real existence of atoms. In this milieu, the development of classical science through empirical methods removed God from the realm of science. Drawing energy from the ideologies of materialism and naïve realism, a group of thinkers and ordinary people began to subscribe to the belief in atheism, which says that God and other metaphysical entities do not exist.
Intelligent Design Argument
We have explained the fallacy of intelligent design argument in chapters 8 and 9 (see sections 8.3 and 9.5); it need not be repeated here. However, a section of scientists who have theist orientation, including Stephen Hawking and Paul Davies, uphold the belief in Intelligent Designer in order to explain the nonphysical aspect – purpose, creativity and freedom – in the evolutionary history of physical world. But this idea carries the baggage of scientific realism; we have earlier presented the counter arguments for refuting realism of any kind. At this stage it is stated that the intelligent design argument is not acceptable because it is a curious mixture of theology and scientific realism. The idea of Designer is an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE), which is associated with scientific realism. We can note that this view suffers from the problem of induction and also skepticism.
It is a great puzzle to explain the nonphysical aspect coherently. More over the notion of Intelligent Designer is a vague concept because it does not include any worshipful attribute of God. We can treat it as the empirical version of deism – the terms like intelligent and designer are mere descriptive usages without any ontological assumptions. Hence there are sound reasons for rejecting the Intelligent Designer Argument.
Ontologically, pantheism holds that the ultimate reality is an immanent and mental process, which works in all phenomenal things. This view is fused with religious belief to get the theological version envisaging the existence of immanent God, in contrast with the transcendent God of theism. The propositions of pantheism – under Ontological and theological versions – are justified on the basis of metaphysical realism.
An important point to be clarified here is the conflict between pantheism and theism. We can note that existence is a static concept, which can be discussed only in content view of scientific thought. But when we deal with the process or activity of a thing, the aspect of change is taken into account. Here we must remember that we are able to observe the thing as a distinct object solely because the thing has static existence for a specific period. At the same time the thing undergoes change also. There is nothing which does not change. That is, static existence and dynamic change are complementary aspects of the thing.
This rule is applicable in the case of God also – it has the dual aspects of permanence and change. Then the question of existence of God rightly belongs to the field of theism. We may state further that the epistemological analysis of pantheism remains a much neglected topic of enquiry. Hence, it is enough to say for the time being that the central principles of pantheism suffer from the same philosophical drawbacks as found in theism.
Since the theological conflict between theism and pantheism has not been settled, the Christian theologians generally agree that their concept of God is actually dialectical theism, which is a synthesis of theism and pantheism. But this position is ambiguous because not supported by a suitable philosophy. [# 8].
Pantheism is the dominant stream in the religious philosophy of Hinduism. Let us consider the chief doctrine called Vedanta, which holds that reality is Brahman with the attribute of consciousness. However, it is assumed that Brahman contains the power of Maya that accounts for the material aspect of universe. There is an unexplained mystery about the existence of these two opposite forces – Brahman and Maya – as well as about the relation between them. The existence of Brahman cannot be described using the concepts with which we know this World. Hence this form of immanent reality cannot be comprehended objectively. In this context, reality is metaphorically called as nothingness or void or sunyata. We may remember the phrase neti, neti (not this, not this) in this regard.
From epistemological perspective, eastern pantheism teaches that we can know reality through meditation leading to nirvana; its meaning is metaphorically given as knowing the self by overcoming worldly desires. However in this chapter, we would deal with the intellectual and secular method of knowing reality.
There are some special forms of religion, the so called mystic religions, which aim to achieve communion with the process reality (immanent God) through direct experience or insight. The best examples of such mystic traditions are Buddhism and Taoism. Additionally, there are certain mystic cults of larger religions such as Kabbalah within Judaism and Sufism within Islam as well as schools of Hindu mysticism. Obviously the theologies of these mystic religions or cults are proposed through empirical way, since it interprets the sensory aspects of mystic worship.
As a convention in the philosophical literature, the term mysticism is applied to refer to the epistemological ideas of pantheism and mystic worship generally. In order to contrast between the rational and empirical methodologies adopted, we may denote the epistemology of pantheism as rational mysticism, while that of mystic worship is called empirical mysticism. These two divisions – rational and empirical – of epistemology are primarily concerned about the nature of mystical experience and knowledge as obtained by deductive and inductive methods respectively. Here we may adopt the same phrase – empirical mysticism – to denote both epistemology and theory of reality allied with the subjective experience of divinity.
During the second half of 20th century, there is a proliferation of writings about linking spirituality with quantum physics, from process perspective. The pioneer in this field is David Bohm (1917-1994) who advanced the theory of implicate order and hologram to describe the universal reality. His argument runs concisely as follows:
In the context of quantum mechanics and particle-wave duality, there is connection between the particles at considerable distance. This nonlocal and noncausal relation implies that the subatomic particles are interconnected wholes. Accordingly the essential characteristic of universe is wholeness, which is revealed in the substructures of matter. In order to conceive the ontological interconnectedness, Bohm develops the notion of implicate order, meaning the hidden order or gradations of reality that manifests in the explicate order (the hierarchy of phenomena). The model of the wholeness of reality is the familiar photographic hologram. This implies that everything, including elementary components of matter, has creativity or aspect of consciousness. It is now possible to get knowledge about the material and nonmaterial parts of universe in an integrative manner; some theologians have interpreted this idea as a vital step for unifying science and spirituality. [# 9].
Next we may consider the writings of Fritjof Capra. His ideas of connecting matter and mystical reality have been mentioned earlier in chapter 8.
Additionally, it is pertinent to see the books of Ervin Laszlo (1932 – ) who gave a new version about the link between spirituality with quantum physics. Ervin Laszlo mainly holds that subatomic field is similar to the notion of space (akasha) appearing in Indian mysticism. Mystics and sages have long maintained that there exists an interconnecting cosmic field — Akashic Field — at the level of reality.
In his most important book Science and the Akashic Field, published in 2004, Laszlo describes that the recent discoveries about vacuum as quantum phenomenon would provide an empirical view of pantheism. He proposes that the quantum vacuum is also consciousness. Everything in the universe, even the so called inanimate things, therefore has consciousness. Further, Laszlo says that life happens because it comes from the quantum vacuum. The universe is not a world of separate things and events but is a cosmos that is connected and coherent. This view resembles the earliest spiritual traditions in which the physical world and spiritual experience were both aspects of the same reality. Laszlo reveals the cosmos to be a self-actualizing, self-organizing whole, bringing forth life and consciousness in countless universes. He calls his theory as systems philosophy; but we can note that it is an empirical theory under process view. [# 10].
As per the foregoing, we may conclusively hold that there is a sort of realism involved in various forms of mysticism holding that the subjective reality or God exists really. This realism is an anomaly of philosophical thought. If a mystic says that God exists in his private consciousness, it has only metaphorical meaning, which is different from the conventional and scientific notion of existence. In this situation, similar to the case of pantheism, empirical mysticism also is not competent to answer the question about the existence of ultimate reality.
Physical Process Reality
In contrast to the spiritual process worldview explained above, the opposite group of philosophers and scientists argue that the material process is predominating in the universe. This appears as the process version of materialism. It is convenient to designate the theory of reality and knowledge about material processes as physical process reality. In chapters 3 to 8, we have described the new paradigm called quantum physics for finding the laws about subatomic phenomena with particle-wave duality
Now we can see that the ontological assertions of quantum physics would reveal its inherent pitfalls. When we consider the material and empirical aspects of world, under physical process view, we become skeptical whether matter can exist as the first cause of world. To our dismay, there is no scientific evidence for the existence of matter as the fundamental stuff of physical world. The philosophy of quantum physics and cosmology, developed in earlier chapters, would lead to the conclusion that the most elementary entities of material world – such as quarks, electrons, strings and membranes – are phenomenal; these are models of our scientific mind. So we are not entitled to say that matter exists really with such elementary components. Moreover, nature displays nonphysical aspects also like creativity and purpose, which are beyond the realm of science. In this situation, the arguments of materialism under process view would fail to muster any strength.
Now it is expedient to consolidate the above review of seven theories of reality. Through a general perspective of the said controversies, we can see the reason why reality has remained as the most disputed area of philosophy. But System Philosophy will show the method for solving this age-old riddle, if we spend our intellectual energy to tread unconventional path.
11.2 System Philosophy of Reality
We must follow the path of secular thought for combining rational and empirical views about reality so as to explain the aspects of life, evolution and mind. Hence, our plan for synthesizing the competing theories of reality is based on the following conditions:
• Reality must have the components called matter and mind (consciousness), since it creates the phenomenal things with the dual aspects of matter and mind. Further, we must be able to explain the hierarchy of things in the world.
• Religious notions of reality like theist God as well as the scientific concept of matter are phenomenal ideas pertaining to religion and science respectively. We need the definition of ultimate reality as the synthesis of religion and science.
• Reality must be conceived in third-person perspective through secular philosophy under content view; then only reality can be said to exist.
In the following sections, we will make use of the innovative idea of system, which is the central part of System Philosophy, in order to develop a comprehensive vision of reality.
11.2.1 Three Levels of World as a System
The term system has been defined philosophically in chapter 9 as a productive structure formed by opposite entities. The X-axis and Y-axis pertaining to analytical geometry are used to represent the opposite forces of productive structure similar to a factory. In economics, the structure called factory uses the dual inputs capital and labour for producing certain outputs; there are different levels of outputs or products depending on the technology of combining capital and labour. The analogy of factory is highly suitable for defining a system. We can note that the opposite entities called X and Y separately cannot be conceived independently and absolutely; they are complementary aspects which combine to form a whole like factory. The production function model of system can be applied to both phenomenon and reality depending on the context.
It is necessary to explain how the system model shows existence, without attracting the problem of realism. It has been shown earlier in this book that our knowledge is produced by the sequence of theory (Ty), hypothesis (H), deduction (D), testing (T) and inductive inference (I) – it is denoted by TyHDTI scheme. Here Ty, H and D together form the group of deductive propositions (DP), while T and I together form the group of inductive propositions (IP). In other words, knowledge is the combination of DP and IP. As a rational principle, the system model is included in theory-part and it is a predicate. We cannot attribute existence to the predicate, as argued by Kant. But the system model can be verified by scientific evidence from worldly things in accordance with the TyHDTI scheme of knowledge. So we get the inference that the system model has existence. In other words, “system exists” is a true inference, without involving realism or metaphysics.
Next step is to reconsider the philosophical deliberation pertaining to life. The definition of life is rendered very difficult on account of the contrasting worldviews mentioned earlier. In order to synthesize these disputes, we will specially consider the theories of modern biology which adopts the physical process view. The central idea in this field is that life is a physical process guided by the DNA and genetic code present in the cells of organism. In this way, modern biology as a whole proposes that organism is like a computer – the molecular structure of cells and its higher organizations constitute the hardware while the genetic code serves as the software (algorithm). Through philosophical arguments we can show that the machine-algorithm model lacks justification. The existence of DNA and other macromolecules cannot be established on account of the deeper problems about the notion of matter. Mainly, the existence of separate entities called DNA and genetic code cannot be proved, since they are predicates as per the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Moreover, genetic code displays nonphysical aspects of creativity, freedom and purpose. In this milieu, the existence of DNA and genetic code as physical objects suffer from grave inconsistencies. [# 11][*].
In order to tide over this critical problem, we must apply the system model and hold that life is a system formed by the opposite entities called macromolecule and information. The phenomenon of life has non-dual existence in the form of a system. It is due to the influence of the Aristotelian rules of thought that we conceive macromolecule (mainly DNA) and genetic code as separate objects. In contrast, we can link DNA and genetic code by treating them as X and Y axes respectively. Further it may be emphasized that the popular notion about life as a formless being that exists in physical body is a way of religious thought. At the same time the scientific theory that life emerged from physical DNA is also a fallacy. System philosophy of life does not resort to the notion of intelligent designer for explaining the nonphysical aspects of life – creativity, purpose and freedom – exhibited by cell and its higher organizations. Thus, finally, the puzzle of life is solved here.
Next step is to take up the philosophical treatment of biological evolution. Only content view can address the concerned issues since the process view gives only the description of the historical stages of evolution. So we may switch over to the principle that evolution must be perceived as a phenomenon under content view of knowledge. Now we proceed to find the method for synthesizing naturalism and vitalism in a secular manner. As a continuation of the above system model of life, we can show that the dialectical and productive relation between X and Y will produce different levels of organisms with increasing complexity. Thus we get the diagram called the system model of biological evolution. It may be emphasized that this model is the correct alternative to Intelligent Designer Argument. [# 12][*].
Finally, we assert that Darwinism is a physical reduction of the system model adopting the process view. The nonphysical aspect of information or consciousness is reduced to a mechanical algorithm called genetic code. Then DNA and genetic code assume the form of machine-algorithm which is the key principle in the physical theory of Darwinism. Explaining organic evolution in physical terms serves the pragmatic objectives of science though it fails philosophically. We emphasize that Darwinism will continue in use for the scientific study of evolution. But it raises serious conflict between science and religion; this problem will be addressed in a later occasion.
Three levels of natural systems
At this stage we have to develop a comprehensive view about the three levels of nature – inanimate world, biological world and mental world. For this integrative treatment, it is necessary to resort to the System Philosophy of human mind as well as natural systems, as presented earlier.
Through ordinary perception we think that the inanimate world is physical and it is made of matter and energy. But there are serious dilemmas about the early stage of physical world as well as about the existence of matter. We have discussed these cosmological issues in earlier chapters. Most importantly, the scientific realism and pluralism, which are allied to materialism, have failed in suggesting a coherent vision of cosmology. In this predicament, System philosophy offers a plausible solution.
We have already proposed the innovative system philosophy of science whereby the physical world has phenomenal existence on account of matter-energy duality. Accordingly, dark matter and dark energy exist as X coordinate and Y coordinate respectively and hence, they jointly form a system. According to the system model, the productive relation between X and Y produces various levels of products such as elementary particles, basic forces, atoms, molecules, galaxies, stars and planets. The system of dark matter and dark energy can be treated as parental universe having ten or more dimensions.
The event called big bang is the beginning of our universe on account of the compactification of a part of previous universe, so that the extra dimensions are hidden in order to manifest the four dimensional matter-energy world. In this view, our universe (physical world) grew from a singularity point by continuous transformation of some parts of previous universe. This process can be compared to the growth of a seed to become a tree by drawing resources from the environment. It may be emphasized here that matter and energy have complementary existence in the system model of physical world. So we have to discard the notion that matter is an illusion. All physical things exist phenomenally as matter-energy systems. Note that matter and energy are not separate substances; they have complementary and interdependent existence as opposites.
The system model of physical world serves the purpose of justifying the scientific laws. Science basically deals with physical things made of matter and energy; subsequently it reduces living beings into material bodies. We can call this as the process of physicalisation, which is guided by the practical objectives of science. However, we can realize that this approach does not explain the nonphysical aspects of creativity and purpose observable even in the physical world. How can we account for the hierarchical order of complexity achieved by the evolution of world in the order of cosmological stages? Atoms combine variously to form different molecules so that new properties emerge wonderfully.
A typical example is the formation of water when hydrogen and oxygen combine in a certain proportion. The emergent properties of water are strikingly at a higher level than that of the constituents; the formation of water upon earth is the beginning of a long chain of phases that caused the origin of life in the oceans about 350 crore years ago. Evidently, there is a nonphysical aspect – purpose, creativity and freedom – in the evolutionary history of physical world. It is a great puzzle to explain the nonphysical aspect coherently. Moreover, we do not want to resort to the intelligent design argument, due to its inherent philosophical problems. Happily, our problem will be solved through system model incorporating consciousness for representing the nonphysical aspects.
System philosophy clarifies now that the system model of physical world is a practical and phenomenal principle for justifying scientific laws. In order to add the property of nonphysical aspect we must conceive of a higher system formed by matter and consciousness, which becomes the physical world by reduction into matter and energy. It is expedient to denote the said opposite forces as matter1 and consciousness1 respectively, which form a system – this is the basic level of natural world. Let us see how this idea is applied to a factory producing car. Through suitable mathematical techniques, the labour and capital can be transformed to matter and energy respectively. So, as per the analogy of factory, labor-capital system is first transformed to matter-energy system and then to matter1-consciousness1 system.
Next we will consider the second level of natural world. The system model of biological world shows that living organism exists as an X-Y system of macromolecule and information, as explained earlier. It has been already established that the information contained in genetic code is nonphysical. So we rename macromolecule and information as matter2 and consciousness2 respectively.
Thirdly we want to propose the system model of mental world, especially the existence of human mind. The prevailing scientific theory about human mind is Computer model functionalism – it holds that nervous system functions like a computer. The neuron networks form the hardware. The mental states are like the software and it denotes the function of neuron networks. The machine-algorithm view of computer is used by neuroscientists. Through philosophical arguments, it is possible to show that the computer model of mind is defective. System philosophy appears as the plausible explanation about the existence of the nonphysical structure of mind.
As the first step towards the new philosophy of mind, we assert that diverse mental states – feelings, emotions, ideas, memory etc. – are produced when a higher form of consciousness works on the neuron signals of brain and other parts of nervous system (BNS). It may be noted that BNS is a part of biological body. Let us denote the BNS by matter3 and the higher form of consciousness as consiousness3. In this way we can note that mind is a matter3-consciousness3 system. This dialectical production model illustrates the existence of various mental states in the static way of content view.
From this perspective, it is now clear that human being exists as a system with three subsystems — inanimate system, biological system and mental system. This theory can be extended to the nature as a whole, as shown below.
Table 3 : Three levels of nature [# 13][*]
Three worlds Theoretical entities (predicates) Phenomenal existence (system)
1. Inanimate world Fundamental opposite aspects within atoms (physical and non physical) (matter1, consciousness1) system
2. Biological world DNA, RNA, protein and other macromolecules with genetic code (matter2, consciousness2) system
3. Mental world Neuron signals and non-physical aspects in BNS (matter3, consciousness3) system
System philosophy of mind gives the happy solution of the body-mind dualism which is arguably the greatest riddle of philosophy. It is our custom to say that mind is a nonphysical structure that exists above the physical neuron networks. This kind of separation of mind from nervous system is a consequence of our ordinary thinking in accordance with Aristotle’s rules of thought. Now we can replace the body-mind dualism with body-consciousness system. [# 14][*]
11.2.2 System Model of Ultimate Reality
We have now reached the final stage of our philosophical search; it is the vision about the ultimate reality, which is axiomatically defined as the first cause of all phenomena as a whole. This ontological principle necessarily expresses the synthesis of the three levels of phenomena in nature – inanimate world, biological world and mental world. Though the existence of ultimate reality is my inference supported by evidences as per the TyHDTI scheme, I can practically believe that ultimate reality has real existence by the strength of the ontological arguments given below. [# 15][*]
1. I think, therefore I exist as a system of matter and consciousness.
2. All phenomenal things, which served as the cause of my being, exist as systems.
3. Therefore nature exists as a phenomenal system.
4. I am practically justified in believing that Ultimate Reality exists as a system to produce all phenomena included in nature.
This deductive method can dispel the doubts of all confused minds who ask: Is ultimate reality knowable? Can we conceive the existence of ultimate reality through content view?
In the following paragraphs, we will present the essential structure of ultimate reality. It is a theory, which is proved by evidence, so that we get the inference about the existence of system.
In the above table, we have introduced the subscripts 1, 2 and 3 to matter and consciousness for distinguishing the three levels of phenomena. And it also implies that the fundamental constituents of universe are matter and consciousness, since they manifest in the hierarchical levels observed. For defining the structure of ultimate reality we may replace the word matter with Body and treat consciousness in the real sense. Thus we get the definition: Ultimate Reality is the system of opposite forces called Body and Consciousness. Representing Body by X-axis and Consciousness by Y-axis, we can illustrate the production of inanimate, biological and mental worlds– it is called the System Model of Ultimate Reality. Alternatively we may call the diagram as System Model of Nature or Picture of Ultimate Reality also. [*]
Ultimate Reality is the original cause of the production of hierarchical order in universe, culminating in the emergence of human beings with matured brain and mental faculties. In human mind, its unconscious part is the source of purposes and motivations, which are responsible for the formation of our social systems. We may analyse the resemblances and differences of the multitude of social systems developed by human species. In this way we can classify the entire spectrum of manmade social systems into seven macro systems named as natural life system (NLS), economic life system (ELS), political life system (PLS), family life system (FLS), ethical life system (ETLS), religious life system (RLS) and artistic life system (ALS). The system model of human mind shows that the seven life systems mentioned above are produced by separate faculties of human mind, according to the respective aims of practical life.
The X-Y coordinate system has four quadrants (or parts) denoted by I, II, III and IV. When we consider the hierarchy of phenomenal things in a factual manner, without invoking the value aspect, all things can be shown in quadrant I using the graphs called isoquants. It may be clarified that isoquants are special kind of graphs employed in economics for representing the separate products of a factory. The analogy of a factory for producing car is the best key to understand the function of Ultimate Reality. In the factory, elementary components are joined to make more complex components in successive stags to achieve the final production of car. In the similar manner, we can describe the production of various inanimate and living things of natural world.
Now suppose that we judge a phenomenal thing as good or bad under the norms of ethics. Then good thing will be placed in quadrant I, while bad thing is in the quadrants III, of the System Model of Ultimate Reality. Generally, we postulate that phenomenal universe occurs in quadrants I and III; these divisions stand for good and bad respectively. The logic for distinguishing between good and bad phenomena is that Ultimate Reality possesses the property of purpose or value which has positive and negative directions. The idea of dividing value (purpose) into good and bad aspects may sound new to the readers who habitually identify value with the good aspect only. The system model shows symmetry in all respects.
The principle that Ultimate Reality exists as a system with good and bad parts expediently solves the problem of evil, which troubled thinkers throughout the history of philosophy. We may recall that the problem of evil is essentially connected with religious definition of God and it is expressed in the following question. How can a perfect and good God create a world in which there are various kinds of evils? Surveying the ideas of great philosophers, S.E. Frost writes:
“God is thought as the source of all good and the devil is the evil principle. But, to the question “Did God create the Devil?” there is no answer. A dualism of good and evil works well until the attempt is made to account for the creation of the universe; but that presents difficulties which have not been solved”. [# 16].
The issue of evil actually belongs to the topics of religion and ethics. In the present context, it may be reiterated that the System Model of Ultimate Reality is radically different from the religious notions of God, Devil and Soul. As per the teaching of religion, God is regarded as the reality, while other entities like evil, soul, mind, and matter have subsidiary existence only. This idea of religious reality serves as the theory of religion, which is the product of our mystic faculty of mind. For the time being, it is enough to say that the System Philosophy does not negate the religious ideas of God and Devil. We will consider the truth of religious propositions in the fourteenth chapter. [# 17][*].
Additional remarks on knowledge about reality
For a successful theory of reality, the following three conditions are to be satisfied.
• We must define reality without assuming realism. We may remember that realism asserts the separate existence of matter and mind in accordance with Aristotle’s rules of thought.
• The monistic notion of reality led to the six worldviews and it must be synthesized taking into account the opposite conceptions.
• Existence is the aspect of permanence and it has meaning only in the content view of reality. Process view is to be applied for describing the aspect of change. So reality has the dual properties permanence and change.
You may ask: since the word reality means “that which exists really”, how can we avoid realism? Is it possible to remove realism that is a jump from the abstract definition of class to the notion of existence? There are occasions where we talk about the existence of things about which there is no empirical evidence. The statements about God, soul, angel and heaven would fall into this kind of propositions. When I say that such theoretical entities exist, it attracts the problem of realism.
Consider the sentence “a table exists in front of me”, it means that I have correct phenomenal knowledge as per the TyHDTI scheme about an object called table. It is an inference proved by sensory evidence. Now we can modify the position of realism by asserting that the existence of a thing is an inference known through the said scheme. That is, we cannot go beyond our scheme of knowledge to say that a thing exists as external to our mind.
It is now clear that propositions about reality also must be formulated through the TyHDTI scheme of philosophical knowledge. Here, the definition of reality as the original cause of universe would belong to the theory part. Accordingly, reality is a theoretical entity which is given meaning through the evidences obtained by observing the objects of universe in an integrative manner. This statement may appear as an adaptation of logical positivism, to the realm of philosophical theory. Adhering to the verifiability criterion of meaning, the system model of ultimate reality is correct knowledge because it explains the fundamental aspects of matter, mind and evolution. The X-Y model is presented in content view; it illustrates the existence of reality simply in the form of a factory. The truth of the model is ascertained by empirical evidences about the hierarchy of things in the cosmos.
The definition of reality has been an intractable problem in hitherto philosophy mainly due to two reasons:
The metaphysical realism, which is a consequence of Aristotle’s rules of thought.
The religious idea of God as ingrained in the psych of believers. The religious doctrine is in sharp opposition to materialism advanced by science.
Under System Philosophy, the Ultimate reality is the first cause of the opposites contained in all kinds of phenomena – scientific, religious and artistic – appearing through content view. Also, as we have stated earlier, the true nature of philosophy is superscientific, in the sense of secular and logical inferences, meant for synthesizing all types of phenomenal knowledge.
Another advantage of System Model of Ultimate Reality is that it removes the confusion caused by Intelligent Design Argument. Many of the Christian theologians and scientists have subscribed to this argument thinking that it expresses the relation between God and natural world through empirical approach. This way of linking theology and science suffer from serious philosophical inconsistencies.
In this context, it is important to realize that the system model can be interpreted according to process view also. Matter and consciousness are in dialectical and productive relation causing the historical occurrence of phenomenal things. This point may be contrasted with the traditional doctrine of pantheism. The oldest form of pantheism, that is Neo-Platonism, calls God as the One. Philosophies of Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel hold that the reality is a mysterious union of matter and consciousness from which the phenomenal opposites emanate. We can reinterpret this idea using our system model in which the point of origin of X-axis and Y-axis represents the pantheist notion of reality. Obviously this queer idea needs modification for showing existence under content view. [# 18][*].
Additionally, the relation between Brahman and Maya, pertaining to Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, is a serious matter of confusion. Concerned theologians say that the Brahman is the reality and it exists eternally together with Maya power. By converting this statement to the language of system model, it implies that Brahman and Maya together are situated in the original point of the X-Y coordinate system. We can now remove the philosophical inconsistencies by suggesting that Maya is the X-axis while Brahman is the Y-axis; then reality is like a factory process with opposite components of infinite measure. From the forgoing, we may reiterate that the philosophical issues of all pantheist doctrines of west and east can be removed by using the system model of matter and consciousness.
# 1 Most of the important academic books on philosophy have avoided specific mention of the term reality in the sense of original cause. A helpful explanation of the concept of reality is available in George Thomas White Patrick (1978).
# 2 This chapter is in the form of conclusion of the philosophical discussion covered so far. Hence the reference books already mentioned in the earlier chapters hold good for the present chapter also.
# 3 The classification of cognitive faculties of mind have been explained in chapter 8. This is my original idea.
# 4 The notions monism and monistic philosophy as explained here is my original idea.
# 5 The concept of worldview has been originally introduced in chapter 2.
# 6 It may reiterated that the definition of six worldviews and Table 1 constitute the basic framework for developing System Philosophy.
# 7 The positions of individual theories of reality in Table 2 would indicate the method of unifying the seven theories of reality. The point highlighted here is that theories of reality are derived from worldviews.
# 8 The concepts of theism, deism, pantheism and empirical mysticism will be elaborated in a separate volume dealing with Philosophy of Religion. Dialectical theism is explained in Macquarrie (1985), page 54.
# 9 Regarding the holographic paradigm of David Bohm for linking spirituality with quantum physics, see the two articles respectively of Kamladevi R. Kunkolienker and Richard D’Souza appeared in Omega – Indian Journal of Science and Religion (Institute of Science and Religion, Aluva), volume 7, number 2 (December 2008), pages 104 – 137.
#10 As accessed on 20 August 2017, Wikipedia says:
Systems philosophy was founded by Ervin Laszlo in 1972 with his book Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought. “Systems philosophy”, in Ervin Laszlo’s sense of the term, means using the systems perspective to model the nature of reality, and to use this to solve important human problems. Laszlo developed the idea behind systems philosophy independently of von Bertalanffy’s work on General System Theory (published in 1968), but they met before Introduction to Systems Philosophy was published and the decision to call the new discipline “systems philosophy” was their joint one.
# 11 The nonphysical aspects of genetic code and the definition of system have been originally presented in chapter 9. It is practically easier to explain the concept of system when we discuss the purpose and creativity in life and evolution. This idea is the spring board of System Philosophy.
# 12 It is my original idea to conceive evolution from content view. The intelligent design argument has been explained critically in chapters 8 and 9.
# 13 By treating the three levels of nature as systems, we can incorporate the nonphysical aspect of purpose. This is my original idea.
# 14 These points have been explained in chapters 9 and 10.
# 15 These steps of arguments propose radical modification to the axiom of Descartes – cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I exist) – about the separate existence of self or mind in contrast to body.
# 16 Frost. S. E (1989), Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, page 91.
# 17 System Philosophy about God and Evil, which is my original idea, will be described briefly in chapter 13; it is planned to elaborate this topic in a separate volume on Philosophy of Religion.
# 18 Comparison of pantheism with System Model is my original idea.
George Luke, Puthenkulam House, Cherukara Kunnu, Changanacherry, Kerala – 686101. Phone: 0481- 2411830, 9961194502. Email: email@example.com ; Website: www.systemphilosophy.com