Alternative evolution

For those who are sceptical of a reductionistic view of evolution where blind forces and accidental mergings are purported to account for the observed diversity of life, here is an alternative theory. This approach begins from a standpoint that assumes mind and consciousness to be primal as opposed to the above view which treats lifeless physical substance and forces and nothing more as the originator of life.

The primal mind and consciousness I will call spiritual, the physical substance and forces I will call material.

In my opinion the material is condensed out of the spiritual. So I am just giving an explanation of evolution to be considered and not trying to pass anything I say below as fact.

From this aspect the sun that we see in the sky is just the physical manifestation of the spiritual sun which covers a much more inclusive area. All of the surrounding sphere of influence of the sun is encompassed by the spiritual sun. And so our earth and all the planets are included in this sun. When we look up at the night sky all that we see, all of the visible objects are manifestations of the spiritual. All that we don’t see, the darkness, the vacuum of space, this belongs to the spiritual from which the physical is condensing. And through physics we are starting to realise that empty space is anything but empty. It is only empty from the point of view of human physical senses.

Now there are distinct levels of condensation. If we look at the solar system, the gas giants have condensed less than the earth and inner planets.

Moving on to earthly life, the single celled organisms we see around us are descended from those forms which condensed the earliest and by so doing have become less plastic and unable to develop further. There forms are not suitable for the descent of consciousness into the physical forms. But this remaining behind was an absolute necessity in order to form a base from which ever higher forms of life could emerge. And at every stage of life’s development certain forms remain behind and develop their consciousness no further. Organisms such as fish have descended more slowly and have thus been able to evolve further than the earlier forms. But they have progressed no further than their current stage. And this is how evolution continues. Humans have taken the longest time to condense down to the physical and thus have developed a physical form in which consciousness, which is spiritual, is able to become manifest in the individual organism.

And this is why we see a nested hierarchy of life from its early beginnings up to the present. Life is an evolution of consciousness which can also be described as a condensation of individual consciousnesses out of a cosmic consciousness. Prokaryotes share in the cosmic consciousness but have very little in the way of any noticeable individual consciousness. Humans are at a level where they do manifestly display a certain amount of individual consciousness.

This development of life can be seen mirrored in the development of each one of us from conception to adult. See the diagram below:

Images of human development compared to the evolution of sentient life:
A & K – Single cellular beginnings
B & L – Cells multiplying
C & M – Differentiation of forms
D & N – Distinct forms appearing
E & O – Developing locomotory systems
F & P – Early stages of central nervous system and senses
G & Q – Transition to a terrestrial existence
H & R – Limbs have developed to a point where they can support the body
I & S – Bipedalism gives the upper limbs more freedom from the gravitational forces
J & T – Organisms have moved from being just creatures to being creators

And this series is not meant to be taken as a simple progression one following on the one preceding it. There are overlapping forms between and within each level. I’m sure everyone understands that life is vastly more complex than depicted by this simple diagram.

Thinkers such as Lorenz Oken and those ancient astronomers who interpreted the heavens in the form of the zodiac, the circle of animals, pictured the animal kingdom as a spreading out of the human form, a series of individual forms each displaying a one sided aspect of that which is seen as complete in the human form. The human is the culmination of all that was prepared in preceding life. And that is what I have tried to show with this diagram. What is spread throughout the animal kingdom is condensed in the individual human being.

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153 thoughts on “Alternative evolution

  1. Alan Fox:
    Who doesn’t that apply to, Charlie? You? Me?

    My mind shifted quite bit bit during my youth. But I must admit at my age you’re probably right, it would take some shifting 🙂

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  2. I get that the Neoplatonic picture is an alternative the materialistic picture: top-down emanationism vs. bottom-up emergentism.

    What I don’t get is either (1) why it strikes anyone as being a better picture or (2) why anyone would even want emanationism to be true.

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  3. And this is why we see a nested hierarchy of life from its early beginnings up to the present. Life is an evolution of consciousness which can also be described as a condensation of individual consciousnesses out of a cosmic consciousness. Prokaryotes share in the cosmic consciousness but have very little in the way of any noticeable individual consciousness. Humans are at a level where they do manifestly display a certain amount of individual consciousness.

    I’ll just pick out this bit from the mass. I know you can’t make any argument in support of this bizarre claim, so I won’t ask. But what you describe would not produce a nested hierarchy. I thing you might be confusing nested hierarchy with the scala naturae, and you ignore all branches of the tree of life that you can’t force into this story connected to the human lineage. Do you know that, for example, angiosperms have a nested hierarchy of relationships too? Did dicots condense before monocots, or what?

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  4. How has this inherent tendency for life to become consciously aware of cosmic love played itself out in the arthropods? Is the scorpion or the scolopendra more intelligent and aware of our deep spiritual connection than the trilobite was?

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  5. Kantian Naturalist: What I don’t get is either (1) why it strikes anyone as being a better picture or (2) why anyone would even want emanationism to be true.

    Agreed.

    Even if true, we would still need our standard science to make sense of it all. So this “alternative evolution” doesn’t really do anything for us.

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  6. Moved a comment to Guano. Ample opportunity was recently offered to all members to comment on moderation and the moderation issues thread also still remains open.

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  7. Kantian Naturalist:
    I get that the Neoplatonic picture is an alternative the materialistic picture: top-down emanationism vs. bottom-up emergentism.

    What I don’t get is either (1) why it strikes anyone as being a better picture

    Because of an inkling of undersanding the ancient Hermetic saying, ‘as above so below’
    As Jabir ibn Hayyan is purported to have said, “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one.” Like a broken hologram, the whole is reflected in the parts.

    Also from the observation that life comes from life. The bottom up emergence of a human being out of an egg is preceded by the action of beings which are recognised as the same kind to that which the egg has the potential to become.

    or (2) why anyone would even want emanationism to be true.

    What I do want is for my world view to be consistent with observations and to be without contradictions.

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  8. CharlieM,

    I worry that you’re conflating the holism/atomism distinction between the top-down/bottom-up distinction. I don’t see why emanationism is any friendlier to holism than emergentism is. For an example of holism without top-down emanation, consider general systems theory.

    I guess I’m glad for you that some sort of Neoplatonic emanationism works for you, but what would you say to someone who just says, ‘good for you but it doesn’t work for me?’

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  9. John Harshman: I’ll just pick out this bit from the mass. I know you can’t make any argument in support of this bizarre claim, so I won’t ask. But what you describe would not produce a nested hierarchy. I thing you might be confusing nested hierarchy with the scala naturae, and you ignore all branches of the tree of life that you can’t force into this story connected to the human lineage. Do you know that, for example, angiosperms have a nested hierarchy of relationships too? Did dicots condense before monocots, or what?

    If you look at my diagram it is about the evolution of consciousness. Plants have evolved to a level equivalent to Chondromyces crocatus in the diagram. Plants show only a limited form of self-propelled locomotion such as here in this video.

    They do not develop the sense organs which would lead to conscious awareness. They do have a place in the hierarchy. They have evolved from single cells to development of form but no further. The examples on the left of the diagram encompasses the attributes of everything to their right.

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  10. CharlieM,
    You’re just confirming my initial impression that you have confused the nested hierarchy witth the scala naturae. Perhaps you could re-read my post, think about it for a while, and then try a real response.

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  11. Is it possible John, that the two of you are just talking about two different things when you think you are talking about the same thing and he is not confusing the two at all as you think?

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  12. Mung,

    No. Words have meanings. When he says “nested hierarchy” he actually means “scala naturae”. That’s not what it means. He has, in other words, confused one with the other. This is why he imagines that plants have “a place in the hierarchy”, by which he really means a place, and it’s a single place, on the ladder he has imagined. He is unable to comprehend a sentence like “Do you know that, for example, angiosperms have a nested hierarchy of relationships too?”, because he reads it as “plants have a place on the scale naturae.”

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  13. John, no doubt you are familiar with Russian dolls. Are they not nested? The difference appears to be that there is no branching, no bifurcation.

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  14. Rumraket:
    How has this inherent tendency for life to become consciously aware of cosmic love played itself out in the arthropods? Is the scorpion or the scolopendra more intelligent and aware of our deep spiritual connection than the trilobite was?

    Arthropods have developed from single cells and have reached the stage where they have become somewhat free of gravitational forces equivalent to vertebrates supporting the body by use of their limbs. They have mastered locomotion and have well developed senses. If an angiosperm were to develop further it would be a lepidopteran. They may not be closely related by common descent but by their dynamic forms they are very closely related.

    Arthropods have diversified tremendously over hundreds of millions of years but they have not really evolved much by way of consciousness and sense awareness over this period. One example of such a slow rate of evolution is the horseshoe crab. Arthropods had well developed senses from when they first appeared and they have retained those well developed senses. Their nervous systems have not undergone the same amount of change as is seen in vertebrates. No arthropod has evolved a nervous system which is anywhere near as sophisticated and complex as the human brain.

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  15. Neil Rickert: Agreed.

    Even if true, we would still need our standard science to make sense of it all.So this “alternative evolution” doesn’t really do anything for us.

    Yes I have established that it does nothing for you.

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  16. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM,

    I worry that you’re conflating the holism/atomism distinction between the top-down/bottom-up distinction. I don’t see why emanationism is any friendlier to holism than emergentism is. For an example of holism without top-down emanation, consider general systems theory.

    I don’t have a problem with either emanationism or emergentism. They are the two poles of influence, one working from the peripheral plane and the other from the central point. The Star of David is an apt symbol for this process, one triangle pointing up from below and the other pointing down from above. IMO it is a mistake to deal with the pointwise forces while ignoring the peripheral forces.

    I guess I’m glad for you that some sort of Neoplatonic emanationism works for you, but what would you say to someone who just says, ‘good for you but it doesn’t work for me?’

    I would say, “good for you”, “have you considered that both might have a role to play?”

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  17. John Harshman:
    CharlieM,
    You’re just confirming my initial impression that you have confused the nested hierarchy witth the scala naturae. Perhaps you could re-read my post, think about it for a while, and then try a real response.

    This brings me back to the polarity I am talking about. I do not have a problem with nested hierarchies obtained from common descent. It is the nested hierarchy formed from below up, formed in time from the starting point to the present. We can also obtain a complimentary nested hierarchy, which I have called the nested hierarchy of dynamic form, (see the image below). This hierarchy is obtained by looking in the opposite direction. The development of a human contains all the other developing forms within it. This is not obtained by imagining the scala naturae and then trying to fit life into it. It is obtained by comparing the development of various organisms.

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  18. Mung:
    Is it possible John, that the two of you are just talking about two different things when you think you are talking about the same thing and he is not confusing the two at all as you think?

    Yes Mung, you are right, it’s as I explained in my previous post 🙂

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  19. John Harshman to :
    Mung,

    No. Words have meanings. When he says “nested hierarchy” he actually means “scala naturae”. That’s not what it means. He has, in other words, confused one with the other. This is why he imagines that plants have “a place in the hierarchy”, by which he really means a place, and it’s a single place, on the ladder he has imagined. He is unable to comprehend a sentence like “Do you know that, for example, angiosperms have a nested hierarchy of relationships too?”, because he reads it as “plants have a place on the scale naturae.”

    Yes I know that angiosperms will have a nested hierarchy of relationships too, although I haven’t looked to see how completely it has been resolved. And alongside this nested hierarchy from common descent I’m sure I could provide a complimentary ‘dynamic form’ nested hierarchy.

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  20. Mung:
    John, no doubt you are familiar with Russian dolls. Are they not nested? The difference appears to be that there is no branching, no bifurcation.

    Charlie isn’t even talking about that form of nesting. If he were, humans would be a group within plants.

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  21. CharlieM: If an angiosperm were to develop further it would be a lepidopteran.

    You can’t make this stuff up. But Charlie can.

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  22. CharlieM: And alongside this nested hierarchy from common descent I’m sure I could provide a complimentary ‘dynamic form’ nested hierarchy.

    I’m sure you could pull some kind of random nonsense out of your ass, but I can’t see it going any further.

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  23. John Harshman:

    Mung:
    John, no doubt you are familiar with Russian dolls. Are they not nested? The difference appears to be that there is no branching, no bifurcation.

    Charlie isn’t even talking about that form of nesting. If he were, humans would be a group within plants.

    Can you show us your reasoning here?

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  24. John Harshman:

    CharlieM: If an angiosperm were to develop further it would be a lepidopteran.

    You can’t make this stuff up. But Charlie can.

    Don’t begin with any preconceived ideas,just study flowering plants and then study butterflies.

    Consider plant shoots growing out of seeds. Growth is a prominent observation of shoots and leaves. After a time buds form and the developing flowers are encased in a protective case formed by the sepals. Delicate often brightly coloured flowers emerge and it is from these that the seeds of the next generation are formed. Flowers contain the sexual organs of the plant.

    Now look at butterflies. Caterpillars emerge from eggs just as shoots emerge from seeds. They spend all their time eating the fleshy parts of their preferred plant and thus grow radidly. They can be smooth, hairy or spiked in the same way that plant stems can be smooth, hairy or spiked. After a time they stop eating, protect themselves in an outer case, the cocoon, and inside they are transformed into the emerging butterfly. Butterflies which are delicate and often brightly coloured emerge from the cocoon. They contain the sexual organs of the organism and it is from them that the eggs of the next generation are produced.

    This is either a case of remarkable convergent evolution or there is a higher principle involved.

    The similarities can be summed up in the phrase, as above so below.

    While they are very closely linked, the main difference between plants and butterflies is that the former are tied to the earth by their roots whereas the latter are free of this earthly tethering.

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  25. CharlieM: Can you show us your reasoning here?

    More evidence you don’t know what a nested hierarchy is. It refers to groups within groups. What you have is a ladder, the scala naturae. Humans are higher on your ladder than plants. But if you were describing a nested hierarchy, as in Mung’s Russian doll analogy, humans would be a doll inside other dolls, and the plant doll would be one of those dolls. Humans would be inside plants. You aren’t talking about a nested hierarchy.

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  26. CharlieM: While they are very closely linked, the main difference between plants and butterflies is that the former are tied to the earth by their roots whereas the latter are free of this earthly tethering.

    Again, only Charlie can make this stuff up. Yes, of course that’s the main difference between plants and butterflies.

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  27. John Harshman: I’m sure you could pull some kind of random nonsense out of your ass, but I can’t see it going any further.

    Blake, “To see the world…”

    He who has eyes to see, let him see.

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  28. John Harshman: More evidence you don’t know what a nested hierarchy is. It refers to groups within groups. What you have is a ladder, the scala naturae. Humans are higher on your ladder than plants. But if you were describing a nested hierarchy, as in Mung’s Russian doll analogy, humans would be a doll inside other dolls, and the plant doll would be one of those dolls. Humans would be inside plants. You aren’t talking about a nested hierarchy.

    You are forgetting that I am talking about archetypes.

    In the book, “Ontogeny and Phylogeny” by Stephen Jay Gould, he writes:

    “The annimal kngdom,” wrote Oken in his most famous pronouncment, “is only a dismemberment of the highest animal. i.e. of Man.

    In other words all animals are nested in the human archetype. Groups within groups as per my diagram.

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  29. CharlieM: In other words all animals are nested in the human archetype. Groups within groups as per my diagram.

    I don’t see plants. 😉

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  30. John Harshman: Again, only Charlie can make this stuff up. Yes, of course that’s the main difference between plants and butterflies.

    What about the similarities?

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  31. CharlieM: You are forgetting that I am talking about archetypes.

    Yes, that’s the problem. Thus far you haven’t shown us any reason to think that there any such things as archetypes, or even what problems would be solved by assuming that there are. So far as anyone here can tell, archetypes are just fictions.

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  32. Mung: I don’t see plants.

    Plants are on a different trajectory than animals. There is no sign of plants evolving towards sentience. But they have been essential in producing an environment suitable for sentient beings to evolve. And they are the means by which sentient beings are able to remain viable.

    The only place you will see sentient plants is in sci fi movies such as The Day of the Triffids 🙂

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  33. The evolution towards self-consciousness is a real trajectory, to be sure — but it is but one among many, and there’s no reason to believe that it enjoys any ontological privilege — despite the fact that it is of considerable interest to us.

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  34. Kantian Naturalist: Yes, that’s the problem. Thus far you haven’t shown us any reason to think that there any such things as archetypes, or even what problems would be solved by assuming that there are. So far as anyone here can tell, archetypes are just fictions.

    That is exactly what Schiller thought too

    In Palermo, 17th April, 1787, Goethe wrote these words in reference to this symbolic plant form: “There must be such a thing; if not, how could I recognise this or that structure to be a plant if all were not moulded after one pattern?” Goethe had evolved in himself the conception of a plastic, ideal form that was revealed to his spirit when he surveyed the diversity of the plant forms and observed the element common to them all. Schiller contemplated this form that was said to live, not in the single plant but in all plants, and said, dubiously: “That is not an experience, that is an idea.” To Goethe these words seemed to proceed from an alien world. He was conscious of the fact that he had arrived at his symbolic form by the same mode of naive perception by which he arrived at the conception of anything visible to the eye and tangible to the hand. To him the symbolic or archetypal plant was an objective being just as the single plant. He believed that this archetypal plant was the result, not of arbitrary speculation, but of unbiased observation. He could only rejoin: “It may be very pleasing to me if without knowing it, I have ideas and can actually perceive them with my eyes.” And he was very unhappy when Schiller added: “How can there ever be an experience that is commensurate with an idea? For the inherent characteristic of the latter is that an experience can never be equivalent to it.”

    Two opposing world-conceptions were confronting each other in this conversation. Goethe sees in the idea of an object an element that is immediately present, working and creating within it. In his view, any given object assumes definite forms for the reason that the idea has to express itself within this object in a particular way. For Goethe it has no meaning to say that an object is not in conformity with the idea, for the object can only exist as the idea has made it. Schiller thinks otherwise. To him the world of ideas and the world of experience are two separate regions. To experience belong the diverse objects and occurrences filling Space and Time. The realm of ideas stands over against this as a different kind of reality that is laid hold of by the reason. Schiller distinguishes two sources of knowledge, because man’s knowledge flows to him from two directions — from without through observation, and from within through thought. For Goethe there is one source of knowledge only, the world of experience, and this includes the world of ideas. Goethe finds it impossible to speak of experience and idea, because for him the idea is there before the eye of the spirit as the result of spiritual experience, in the same way as the sense-world lies before the physical eyes.

    Goethe saw the reality of the plant in its whole nature and not just the snapshot given by the immediate sense experience.

    Ask yourself which is more real?

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  35. Kantian Naturalist:
    The evolution towards self-consciousness is a real trajectory, to be sure — but it is but one among many, and there’s no reason to believe that it enjoys any ontological privilege — despite the fact that it is of considerable interest to us.

    There is no reason for a materialist to believe this, but every reason for someone who believes in a higher spiritual reality to believe it. In which case it makes perfect sense.

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  36. In my evolutionary genetics course, when I taught about the history of evolutionary biology, I did in fact cover Goethe. Not for his ideas about things spiritual, but because his work on plant morphology was part of the need, in the Romantic era of the late 1700s and early 1800s, to see unity in nature and to see forms as coming from unified natural laws. As opposed to the tendency in the early 1700s and before to view each species as separately created and thus potentially arbitrarily different.

    It was also a reaction to Isaac Newton, whose laws unified the explanation for motion, both everyday motion and celestial motion. That had a big influence on other sciences.

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  37. Joe Felsenstein:
    In my evolutionary genetics course, when I taught about the history of evolutionary biology, I did in fact cover Goethe.Not for his ideas about things spiritual, but because hiswork on plant morphology was part of the need, in the Romantic era of the late 1700s and early 1800s, to see unity in nature and to see forms as coming from unified natural laws.As opposed to the tendency in the early 1700s and before to view each species as separately created and thus potentially arbitrarily different.

    It was also a reaction to Isaac Newton, whose laws unified the explanation for motion, both everyday motion and celestial motion. That had a big influence on other sciences.

    Goethe was delighted when he discovered the intermaxillary bone in a human skull. He said to Herder:

    I have found neither gold nor silver, but something that unspeakably delights me—the human Os intermaxillary! I was comparing human and animal skulls with Loder, hit up the right track, and behold—Eureka! Only, I beg of you, not a word—for this must be a great secret for the present. You ought to be very much delighted too, for it is like the keystone to anthropology—and it’s there, no mistake! But how?

    At this time those in the establishment were trying to hang on to the last vestige of anatomy which they believed kept humans apart from the apes. The fact that humans lacked this inter-maxillary bone was the only thing left that kept us separate from apes. Goethe believed in the unity of all life so this finding supported his beliefs but he knew that it would not be popular with many of his peers.

    His main argument with Newtonian physics was to do with colours. In Goethe’s view colours arose from the interaction of darkness and light. Light is a unity and so the colours cannot be contained in light. And in my opinion he had a point. Whatever we may think is in pure light we cannot call it colours. Goethe wanted to experiment with colours and their effect on our vision. He did not want to speculate about what was behind colours. From this he wrote his, “Theory of Colours”. Newton had been more concerned with optics, and he tried to be objective in dealing with light.

    I’m glad to hear that you covered Goethe. There are a few artists and academics that I have spoken with here in the UK who had never even heard of Goethe.

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  38. CharlieM: Light is a unity and so the colours cannot be contained in light. And in my opinion he had a point.

    I exist only to document Charlie. Nothing can be added to this.

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  39. I got as far as the ‘spiritual sun’ (about sentence 3) and gave up.
    I think about asking what the hell that is, but Im sort of afraid of what the answer might be.

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  40. John Harshman:

    CharlieM: Light is a unity and so the colours cannot be contained in light. And in my opinion he had a point.

    I exist only to document Charlie. Nothing can be added to this.

    Let’s take the colour red. This is something anyone with normal vision can recognise. I’m sure we would all agree that the rose in the image below is red. The colour is a product of the objects surface, our eyes and our brains. Without the interaction of these three entities there would be no colour. Red may be associated with the spectral wavelength of 620–750 nm, but whatever a wavelength is it is not a colour. Of course there is also the complication that we can also think of it as particulate.

    Goethe was a phenomenologist in that he wanted to stay within experience and not add anything which for him was superfluous to that which he observed. He looked through a prism and did not see the separate colours that he was expecting to see. What he did see was colours appearing where there were edges of dark and light surfaces. Reddish colours at one edge and bluish colours at the opposite edge. It was only when the band of light was narrowed and these coloured edges came together and overlapped that he saw the green in between which formed the spectrum that Newton had observed. He also noted that if the opposite was done and a dark band was narrowed between two light areas that a different spectrum could be observed, a dark spectrum as opposed to the light spectrum. The central colour of this spectrum was not green but magenta. Of course according to the experts magenta is not real because it is not associated with any single wavelength. But in this age of dot matrix printers we all know what we mean by the colour magenta.

    Pure light is invisible to us. In other words there are no colours in it.

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  41. graham2:
    I got as far as the ‘spiritual sun’ (about sentence 3) and gave up.
    I think about asking what the hell that is, but Im sort of afraid of what the answer might be.

    You should never be afraid of asking questions 🙂

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  42. CharlieM: There is no reason for a materialist to believe this, but every reason for someone who believes in a higher spiritual reality to believe it. In which case it makes perfect sense.

    I don’t know what anyone means by “materialist” — it’s one of those words that gets tossed around all the time but I can’t tell how it identifies any position that anyone actually holds. It’s just a straw-person caricature from what I can tell.

    Regardless, I don’t understand why anyone would need to believe in “higher spiritual reality” (whatever the hell that means) in order to explain why trajectory towards more complex forms of mindedness is one among many trajectories to be discerned in the history of life on Earth.

    But one would need to know some cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary theory to see that a naturalistic explanation for mindedness is well within our grasp.

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  43. CharlieM: Goethe was a phenomenologist in that he wanted to stay within experience and not add anything which for him was superfluous to that which he observed.

    You’re quite correct to point out that Goethe was a phenomenologist. But this in turn forces onto the table the central question: is phenomenology a guide to metaphysics?

    Phenomenology gives us tools for describing how the world is to us as we experience it — but can it tell us how the world really is in itself? (Bear in mind, after all, that Husserl himself thought that the point of phenomenology was to avoid metaphysics — an ambition he shared with the logical positivists.)

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