Contributions to Self Clarity, Wholeness, & Health

Introducing: Foundations for a New Civilization by Will Crichton

Chapter 3: The Present Account of Nature - A Prieview of Some Important Features


Things in the Past Are Real: 
In this account of nature, changes take place in temporal space — four-dimensional space in which changes are ordered along the temporal dimension (“space-time” in physics). The future has not yet happened; the past has already happened. Thus, the boundary between past and future is the end of the results of change, and beyond that there is only empty space. Behind that, in the past, there is structure, the result of changes. Thus, changes extend structures in space, and structural elements farther out came into existence later.

past ==========| future
  structure | space

If changes extend structures in space, the past portions of those structures are still there in temporal space, not in the present of temporal space, however, not here and now, but in the past of temporal space, which is a place in four-dimensional space. Thus, nothing ever goes out of existence but only recedes into the past portion of temporal space. The past is real.

This is true of the properties of structures as well as of structures. Consider that a change in the properties of a thing brings something new into existence and removes something from existence. Within the changing present moment, this is what happens. But in reality altogether, a change in the properties of a structure extends the structure with a new property, while the preceding property recedes into the past. It does not go out of existence.

If material processes exist in the past after they have terminated, the same is true of human beings. When we die, we cease to live, but we do not cease to exist. We exist in the past, and it is our complete life that exists in the past exactly as it was lived, and will exist throughout all time. Death is not annihilation. Nor is our existence after death a disembodied one. We continue to exist just as we were, as bodies with relationships, only the process of our lives is at a standstill, because the body has ceased to function. To appreciate the full significance of this we need to look at another important feature of this account of nature.

Causality by Patterns: 
According to this account, the principle of causality is that what happens tends to be similar to existing patterns. More exactly, structures tend to be extended in ways that are similar to existing patterns. This is limited by what is possible. A structure, when extended, is necessarily similar to what it was before being extended, since only the new portion is what is added on. So, if you consider the various potential extensions of a structure, those that are more similar to existing patterns are more likely to occur.
I argue that this is the only possible principle of causality. To give an idea of how that can be argued, here are the crucial steps in the argument.

  1. There must be a creative factor that creates the events; otherwise tendencies would not be real.

  2. What, then, gives the creative factor a bias towards certain events? It can only be what is in the category of structure and change, since the bias has structural properties, and there are no structural properties outside that category.

  3. What is in the category of structure and past changes is inert. The only way in which it can bias the creative factor is by being what it is, in other words, by providing the patterns that events might resemble.

An important point about this is that similarity does not depend on distance. Consequently, patterns are just as effective if they are in the remote past or in remote parts of the universe as they are if they are nearby.
Some of the existing patterns are more prevalent than others, and a potential extension of a structure that is similar to a more prevalent pattern will be more probable than one that is similar to a less prevalent pattern, given the same degree of similarity. So the principle of causality may be summarized by this formula:

Tendency due to pattern =
similarity to pattern x prevalence of pattern.

Everything in the past is available as a direct cause, a pattern:

 Thus, a person may be formed by patterns found anywhere in the past of the universe.

 The more similar the person’s potentialities are to given patterns the more fully those patterns will probably be incorporated into the person’s nature. (Thus, persons as wholes may have certain strong affinities to past persons as wholes, giving rise to the notion of reincarnation.

 The other side of the same coin is this: that we will always be patterns for any future lives that may resemble us to a significant degree. Our potential influence goes beyond our lifetime and will exist for all time.

Reality is not confined to space and time. Underlying causality by patterns is a transcendent factor that compares the patterns with the potentialities and creates the events as biased by the tendencies. I call this factor the creative factor, since it creates the changes in structure in response to the universe as it exists already. In its creative relation to the material universe it may be called God. But far from being the human-like god of tradition, it is only the creative factor of nature. The creative factor is not in space or time, not in the categories of structure and change, and therefore has no structural properties, therefore no purposes, intentions, or preconceptions of the universe.

The creative factor’s response to the material universe is the original and perfect paradigm of consciousness. The creative factor is unable to respond to the universe other than exactly as it is. It can neither select its information, nor add to it, nor process it, since these would presuppose structure and change outside the category of structure and change. Its response is immediate, since there is no medium through which it could pass and no transcendent process that could delay it. And it is transparent, since only the universe as it is and a creative response to it can be the content of it. If we were able to respond to the entire universe immediately and transparently, we would say we were conscious of it. By the same criterion we must say that the creative factor is conscious of it.

The creative factor’s consciousness of the universe opens the way to taking account of the full spectrum of human experience. The first principle of science is that experience takes precedence over theory. When experience clearly contradicts theory (emphasizing “clearly”), experience must be accepted and theory revised. This principle does not permit us to be selective as to which modes of experience are to take precedence over theory, although, to be sure, the interpretation of experience is often problematic. During the age of modern science, materialism (the view that all reality is in space and time) came to be accepted as self-evidently true by a prestigious segment of society and acquired the status of orthodoxy, so that the precedence of experience over theory has been habitually compromised (as it was earlier by the orthodoxy of religious doctrines). I wish to restore experience to its rightful and (in principle) acknowledged place.

It has generally been supposed that the only alternative to materialism is supernaturalism, the view that there is a higher realm of being outside of space and time with a nature of its own, with intentions and intelligence and the ability to override the natural causality of the material world, or that is the author of that causality. The argument here presents a third alternative — a transcendent being that has no nature of its own but is the creative agency of the nature of the material world — a nature that is defined by material conditions.

Methodologically, traditional theology founded its conclusions in the concept of God as the primary reality, known by revelation. The conclusions drawn here are founded in the logical necessities of structure, change, and tendency, known to be real by common experience. 

The Necessary Patterns: 
A number of properties of structures, changes, and tendencies can be shown to be necessary since the conceptual alternatives to them involve contradictions. That being the case, wherever structures, changes or tendencies occur, they will have those properties. These necessary properties are patterns for analogous properties. For example, that nothing goes out of existence is a necessary pattern. Analogous to it is the repetitiveness of a process in temporal space (the continuation of a pattern in temporal space), which in commonplace terms is the endurance of a thing over a period of time (in other words, it continues very much the same through its changes, as a house or a tree does). The necessary patterns constitute the permanent core of nature, since they are both universal and unchanging.

The most important of all analogues of necessary patterns is individuality, which is the analogue of the discreteness of change and structure (that changes occur in minimal discrete steps and structures are composed of minimal particles).  A study of the necessary patterns and their analogues shows that the maximization of individuality, both individually and as the total individuality in a region of the universe, is the dominant tendency of nature. Individuality consists of two properties: wholeness and distinctiveness. Wholeness is the property of being a single thing, or of being more like a minimal change or particle than a multiplicity. Distinctiveness is the property of being in contrast with surrounding things.

To understand wholeness we need to bring in the principle of complementation. The body of a particle is not the entire particle; the entire particle includes the structural relations (the spatial relations) of that body. In other words, the particle is an element of structure, not merely a member of a set of particles. When we generalize this to individual processes, what they are is defined by their individuality, which is subject to degrees. Thus, the statement for individual processes is that an individual process includes those external relationships of its body that combine with the body to make it a whole process. For example, a human body increases in wholeness as it acquires personal relationships, business relationships, geographical relationships (where they live, their home, their habits of movement, and the like), and so on.

Thus, the tendency for total individuality to be maximized leads, on the one hand, to differentiation, as distinctive individualities emerge, and on the other hand, to integration, as complementation relates different individualities as components of larger individualities. For example, the human body is organized as parts within parts in complementation with one another to constitute a functional whole.

Individuality is both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitatively, it is what a thing is, what makes it that particular thing — my individuality is what I am. Quantitatively, something can have individuality to a greater or less degree. What I am can be more or less clearly defined, more or less highly developed, more or less clearly distinguished from other individualities.
Individuality is not simple singleness and separateness, like the discreteness it is analogous to. It is the wholeness and distinctiveness of organized systems. In the important cases of individuality, wholeness is the integrity of a functional structure or organization. The effective functioning of a system requires that it be integrated, in other words that it have wholeness. And it must be a system distinct from other things. A function (such as the function of the heart to pump blood) is a process in temporal space. The function (pumping blood) goes from the system that performs the function to the system that benefits from the function (from the heart to the cells). For this to happen there have to be those two systems (which may be one and the same). They have to be definite systems, that is, they have to have wholeness and distinctiveness. And the function that goes from one to the other has to be a definite process in temporal space, that is, it has to have wholeness and distinctiveness.

The benefit of a function is a contribution to the individuality of the system that receives it — a function maintains or improves what a system is, maintains or enhances its wholeness and/or its distinctiveness. We hear about dysfunctional families. What that means is that the family fails to do what is needed to keep it together, to keep it from dissipating into its environment — in short, to maintain its wholeness and distinctiveness.

Considering the role of individuality in functionality, we can see that living things have far more individuality than any other systems. This is total individuality, adding up the individualities of all their functional subsystems and functional external relationships.

Individuality is the relevant concept for analysing health. Health implies that all subsystems are functioning so as to maintain the individuality of the whole system. And health is really the health of the entire person, not merely the body but the body with its external relationships, those that make up the individuality of the person as a whole. Health is functional individuality, individuality of the body, and individuality of the person. But health is more than that; these constitute the capability of living fully. But health is not only the capability but also the actuality of living fully. It is primarily living fully, and that presupposes having the capability of doing so.

A Foundation: 
These features of the present account of nature provide a foundation for giving an intelligible account of human consciousness and its various manifestations — choice; reasoning; objectivity and distortion; truthfulness, evasion, and falsification; ethics and self-validation, happiness and the best attitudes.