Is Order of Sensations a Metaphysical Question?


Obviously, potentiality precedes the distinction between subject and object, mind and reality. And it encompasses those two poles too. Reality is, therefore, a bifurcation, a separation of them. Because knowledge exists now, there always has been a potentiality for it. 

Inside of knowledge, forms exist independently of their carriers: redness independently of the red things, the triangle independently of concrete things placed in a triangular space, the orbit of stars calculated in a cosmological theory independently of the real paths that those stars follow in the heavens, the Newtonian formula of the law of gravity independently of the multitude of fallings of bodies on Earth or elsewhere, or the score of Beethoven’s fifth concerto for piano, played over and over again all over the world, and so forth.

Since the whole of material reality emerges from potentiality, the human being as a material being also emerges from that potentiality. Human knowledge is developed by a material being that so emerges; therefore, the qualities specified or produced by that knowledge must emerge from potentiality too.

They are not just products of the human mind but real insights lifting the forms ruling external reality into the light of consciousness. Indeed, we cannot show how such a lifting happens, but we must postulate the continuity between mind and reality since both have the same origin.

Reality is marked by all these forms that in-form it. And their name is legion. The fact that our knowledge evolves, that what is true today ends up as sheer falsity tomorrow, is not an argument against this continuity. Reality is an infinite set of layers of forms, while the human mind is finite. Therefore it is unavoidable that human knowledge will be unable to know reality in its infinity and totality.

To cope with such an infinity, the human mind must be able to discern and select different forms ruling the same things. Which of the forms expressed by Aristotelian physics, Newtonian physics, or Einsteinian physics is the correct one? All and none.

The enhancement of knowledge leads us from one form to another, from the perspective of the body falling towards its natural place in Aristotelian physics to the universal gravity attracting all things and, finally, to the perspective of the space-time continuum in Einsteinian physics.

Our finite mind is able to discern only one type of form at a time in the infinite layers of forms that rule reality. If the form that the mind discovers were not there, it would not grasp it. 

However, there is also another possibility opened by quantum physics. The fact that the infinity of reality can mold itself to the existing structure and capacities of human knowledge. This is what seems to convey to us the recent discoveries in quantum physics that show how the object of observation depends, in so many cases, on the observer.

However, the conceptual distinction between the material world and the intellectual mind is still so profoundly entrenched in our minds that it is almost impossible for us to accept that reality can mold itself to our knowledge. 

Yet, some pioneering spirits could accept it. For example, Carl Gustav Jung spoke about the psychoid character of the archetypes, in that they can show themselves both in material reality and the human mind.

Consequently, all kinds of synchronicities occur, i.e., contents of the mind that correspond to contents of reality but without any direct relationship, as when, while walking on the street, you think of someone, and suddenly that person turns up from behind a street corner. 

Since all these forms emerged from the level of the potential in nature, they exist as pure forms inside that level, that potentiality. They are not mine, as certain types of philosophy think. Even if we attribute them to our brain, since the brain has the capacity to produce them, as an innate capacity, they cannot belong to the brain. Such capacities are aspects of reality and not of subjectivity, which, in fact, resides in them and is not possible without them.

The redness I encounter in all the flowers, or the greenness of all the leaves, are qualities that, because the brain has the capacity to produce them, cannot belong to it. Denying this would mean that I can attribute the capacity to see to my brain.

Although, at first sight, this might seem true, if one speaks about this capacity as a species or particular case of the universal capacity to receive information – whatever kind of information! – the absurdity of this idea becomes obvious: you cannot attribute the capacity to receive information from outside only to the brain in the universe. What we see around us is that everything interacts with everything through information.

The electron is held to interact with other particles based on its electrical charge. Its reactions depend on it, which means that the kinds of reactions in which it is entangled are specified by the information to which it has access. The universe as a whole cannot work without a constant exchange of information. 

Ultimately, this discussion boils down to the polemic between the philosophers who claim that concepts express objectively-existing forms and philosophers who deny this, considering them only products of human subjectivity.

In this regard, Kant, for example, contended that our mind’s main categories could not have an objective external significance but only a subjective one. As a consequence, for example, we cannot say if the universe itself is an infinite network of causal relations but only that the way in which we perceive and think this universe shows it to us as being a causal universe.

How the universe in itself is, independently of our way of interacting with it, is impossible to tell. Now, this view was deduced by Kant from the difficulty he had concerning the explanation of how it is possible for science to make mathematically accurate predictions about the unfolding of natural processes; in other words, he was puzzled about the fact that we can anticipate nature so exactly.

However, his problem was different and, to some extent, even deeper than Hume’s puzzlement. Kant noted that if our knowledge is based exclusively on our habit, i.e., on the generalization of past experience to future experience, one could not explain either the necessary character of scientific knowledge or its a priori character.

But in the way he denied the possibility that our knowledge is based only on empirical generalization, he took into account only the possibility that what we get through our senses is a chaotic, orderless influence of our senses from outside. Any other hypothesis was eliminated from the outset.

This is why he called sensations the ‘matter’ of knowledge, the formless, orderless part of knowledge, which should receive its form from elsewhere (in the case of his philosophy, from the human understanding.)

However, this is already a metaphysical option. There is no clear reason we should prefer the alternative saying, that sensations come into our mind orderless instead of already ordered. Of course, if we think they come orderless, then one cannot read the future in the past.

But Kant was so much influenced by the modern nominalist paradigm that he could not even imagine the metaphysical alternative that sensations could enter already ordered into our psychological system. 

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