The Forrest Gump Principle

November 18, 1998

I wonder if anyone else notices, thought Emile, that it often happens when someone offers you a chocolate, that you see superficial cracks on some of them, suggestive of some prior offerant having squeezed several of them before making a selection.

Why, he asked himself, is it that people prefer hard centers to soft centers? Is it natural or is it just a culturally induced preference. In any case, it was clear to Emile that the Forrest Gump principle holds and that life is truly like a box of chocolates, 'you never know what you are going to get', and hard centers versus soft centers seems to be one of more basic ambiguities of life.

Emile typed in 'reductio.htm' as he downloaded the web file entitled; "E-PANEL Discussion on Reductionism: Bialkowski's and Weinberg's texts", pondering the long standing debate in science on the superiority of the 'reductionist' versus 'holist' modes of perception and inquiry. The nature of the debate seemed, to Emile, to be congruent with the 'Forrest Gump Principle' on ambiguity and uncertainty,.... on the one hand there is the so-called 'reductionist' view that the ambiguity is not really as bad as it seems because we can assume that we can ultimately overcome it, and when you really break it all down, it's all about hard centers which can be arranged and manipulated as we chose. On the other hand, there is the 'holist' view that ambiguity is a good thing which doesn't need to be surmounted, and that the real story is all about one big soft center in which we ourselves are an immersed participating constituent.

Emile looked in vain for the Forrest Gump principle in the E-PANEL Discussion on Reductionism, which revolved around the ideas of Bialkowski and Weinberg. What about hard and soft centers? Clearly Bialkowski was a soft-center guy and Weinberg, a hard center addict. Emile used to be of the same tendency as Weinberg, but crushing the soft-centers and just leaving them there, began to give him a kind of poignant regret, and when he really thought about it, ... the soft centers were far more unique, juicy and interesting in an experiential sense. While the hard centers were predictable in that when you bit through the chocolate veil of ambiguity, you hit the same old toffee or fudge, the soft centers retained their ambiguity to the core, and instead of getting caught up in the mechanical crunching and breaking up of the hard core into many little digestible bits, one tended to lift one's eyes to the heavens and open one's self up to the sensory aromatic and flavorful delight of it all. With soft centers, it was almost as if the pleasure was coming from the 'negative space' in one's surroundings rather than from the center of the chocolate itself.

Emile reflected on the fact that the geometry of the soft and hard centers seemed to be the same as that so well described by Kepler in 'Harmonies of the World', ... one could focus on either an imaginary 'harmonic center' or on a material 'structural center'.

It seemed to Emile, that In the case of the reductionist view, Weinberg was passing over essential 'details' far too quickly, as he said;

"Though wrong. Thales and his pre-Socratic successors were not just being silly. They had somehow come upon the idea that it might be possible to explain a great many complicated things on the basis of some simple and universal principle - everything is made of water, or everything is made of atoms, or everything is in flux, or nothing ever changes, or whatever. Not much progress could be made with such purely qualitative ideas. Over two thousand years later Isaac Newton at last proposed mathematical laws of motion and gravitation, with which he could explain the motion of the planets, tides, and falling apples. Then in the " Opticks ", he predicted that light and chemistry would someday be understood " by the same kind of reasoning as for mechanical principles", applied to " the smallest particles of nature".

In one swell foop, Weinberg was implicitly and undeclaredly opting for and building upon the Pre-Socratic concepts of absolute and exclusionary 'right and wrong', a Parmenidian-Aristotelian as opposed to Heraclitian 'qualitative' principle, and he was introducing the implicit assumption that the world could be fully described in terms of 'things', ..... once again, a Parmenidian as opposed to Heraclitian 'qualitative' notion.

Surely Weinberg had read Poincare, thought Emile, and was familiar with Poincare's observation that 'thing-based' hypotheses in 'mathematical physics' were generalizations which depended on three approximations; "homogeneity, relative independence of remote parts, simplicity of the elementary fact;"

Approximating the problem upfront, so as to get a more exact solution, rather than leaving the problem intact and settling for an ambiguous, but perhaps more informative, solution, were not the same thing. It would make things very simple if they were, but as Ian Stewart had said; "no, Virginia, mathematics has no Santa Claus.", and Emile mused that neither did philosophy have a Santa Claus.

Emile, since he had become a 'soft-center' 'amateur', was always cognizant of the 'ad hoc' nature of 'thing-based' conjecture, and he reflected that the 'independence' which one granted to a 'thing' was the independence of space from space-time, ... i.e. the assumption of 'things' was equivalent to the assumption of euclidian flatspace.

Hadn't Erich Jantsch pointed out, in his 'Design for Evolution', the innate 'ad hociness' of the hard centered 'thing' approximation, since coherent upwellings of energy can emerge and manifest themselves in multiple forms, and straddle multiple possibility space, paying no respect no 'closed form', culturally determined 'thing' boundaries. It seemed to Emile that Jantsch was right; i.e. it was indeed a bit 'after the fact' to come in and start speaking of 'things' and 'forces'. In fact, it seemed kind of tautological in the same way that Vygotsky and Wittgenstein pointed out that language was tautological; i.e. f = m*a is a lot like 'see Spot run', wherein Spot and run, ... the 'thing' and the 'property' mutually define each other with respect to this spatial center of the 'thing' which has been culturally liberated from it's connectedness with ontogenetic or 'evolutionary' space-time flow.

Personally, Emile had no desire to see himself as a 'thing' which was 'liberated' from the ontogenetic flow, since that was akin to leaping from the frying pan into the fire, by being re-enslaved in unnatural 'linear' clock time. It seemed to Emile that Newton had really pulled a fast one with his 'fluxions', which acted like a vat of liquid nitrogen, .... you took a coherent living scenario, and immersed it in the vat until the natural harmonic time stopped, then you took the frozen bits out and re-animated them against a linear time reference, in a man-made clockworks kind of reproduction.

But Emile had more problems with 'mathematical physics' than this euclidian approximation aspect. There was this other aspect of 'homogeneity', and how it came to play in Bialkowski's statement that;

"Since, as one may guess, any road from physics to the human world must lead through biology, and the conjecture that biology will eventually be able to account for social phenomena seems to be very unlikely, one should be that much skeptical of the role of physics in this context."

Emile wondered why Bialkowski had not said 'mathematical physics' instead of 'physics' since in his own mind, he included such stuff as Einstein's 'Geometrical-Physical Theories', such as curved space-time, which transcended, yet provided a container for 'mathematical physics'. 'Geometrical-physical theorizing' allowed one to deal with 'unique instances' and unique qualitative patterns and bypassed the need for the 'homogeneity' assumption and the 'mathematical principia' which came out of that approximation. In dealing with social systems, the 'geometrical-physical theorizing' 'physics' of Einstein seemed to Emile to be much more 'kosher'.

To Emile, it didn't seem necessary to go as far as to tackle the immense complexity of the lynch mob, as someone had suggested, to get to an understanding of soft-centered systems, .... it was all there in the case of our own solar system, as Kepler had pointed out. Instead of thinking in terms of a closed form 'material center', which transposed the whole scenario into euclidian space by making the spatial extension of the 'thing' independent of time, one could think in terms of qualitative patterns which were referenced to an immaterial or imaginary center, the center of harmony, as Kepler implicitly put it. Of course, to think in these soft-centered terms, required the use of 'intutive intellection', Kepler's term for 'geometrical-physical theorizing'.

As Emile mentally thumbed back through his virtual notes on Kepler's 'harmony and structure' archetype, he recalled that it was not a question of 'one or the other' or 'exclusionary logic, as the reductionists tended to insist upon, but 'inclusionary or fuzzy logic' where one used both soft and hard centered notions in complementarity. To recognize the unique and ever-changing qualitative patterns or 'harmonic patterns' in which one was 'immersed', one had think in terms of curved space-time, by sensing things in a 'center-based' mode, as Kepler had asserted. The harmonic center was an imaginary thing which emerged from looking at space-time phase patterns. Emile was now remembering those childhood birthday rituals where everyone joined hands and made a circle, putting the birthday person in the middle and then dancing around them and singing to them. When you were in the center, you could 'intuit' that it was the center from the space-time phase of the dancer's antics, but there was no 'material' or closed-form aspect to it for you since you were standing on it. It was the same kind of implied center, thought Emile, as when as when you see a raindrop fall into the still surface of lake on a canoeing trip, ... the space-time phasing of the little waves on the surface refers you to an imaginary 'attractor' or implied 'center', and this is without reference to any 'enclosing' closed form surface.

To Emile, the principle seemed to be a general one, and was the same as the 'lynch mob' case where the space-time phasing of the crowd pointed you towards a 'center of attraction'; i.e. 'the villain', .... but the 'attractor' was not the material aspect or 'gravitational pull' of the villain; instead, the attractor was 'imaginary' and was formed by the projecting of some common 'imagery' onto the material aspect of the villain. An imagery which involved 'extermination', like the image of a 'black hole', and which induced coherent energy upwellings of many types, as Jantsch had said.

Why was it, Emile asked himself, that science was so resistant to accepting the obvious reality that intangible qualitative patterns engendered tangible-material behaviors; ... a resistance which he had tried to clarify in his own mind in his essay 'Kilroy was here'? Didn't physics make clear that patterns of 'resonance' existed which invited materials to move into them, like the unfilled orbital with a net need for electrons? .... a situation which set up a 'co-resonance' between supply and demand, inducing electrons to 'dance' with their negative space partner, moving out of the unfavored space between resonant orbitals and into the zen 'void which must be filled' of the needy orbitals, .... a phenomenon which physics observes in the macro in moons and rings of Saturn, as in the Cassini division?

At any rate, thought Emile, Kepler's ordering principles were on a grander scale than those of the reductionists, since his three laws didn't even make mention of 'things', but were constituted by qualitative patterns such as trajectories and implied attractors, .... i the foci (fiery points) of an ellipse, the sweeping out of equal imaginary areas in equal time, and the, what Emile referred to as the 'guitar constant' for the overall system, the R**3/T**2 ratio which told you which 'strings' could join in the system harmony.

Of course, by the time those using the reductionist method retrieved their solar guitar from the vat of liquid nitrogen, and re-implemented it in clock-time, the mysterious 'harmony of the whole' was no longer to be seen, heard, or felt, .... although the nostalgia of the loss flagged the fact that that one could still think of it, that it had indeed 'been there'.

The 'grandness' of the harmonic center-based principles of Kepler, to Emile, was that this 'geometry' transcended any material rendering. As Nietzsche had pointed out, 'the belief in cause collapses with the belief in purpose', and shifting from the causal implications of euclidian space and independent time; i.e. from the nature-approximating domain of mathematical physics and reductionism, to the domain of purpose, .... of purely geometric attractor-induced qualitative-patterns, all kinds of material renderings were possible and the notion of 'equifinality' emerged. To 'emile' 'equifinality' in this sense connoted 'no finality', but instead, .... what was that big word of Waddington's, ... 'homeorhesis'?

It seemed to Emile that it would be useful if those using the reductionist approach and those using the holistic approach could come to terms with Kepler's inferences on the advantages of the combination; i.e. that the position within a harmonic system such as that of the sun and planets which ... "... ought assuredly to be judged the most excellent and absolute which is in the middle position among those globes, viz., in man's earth, while there dwells in the sun simple intellect ('nous' or intuition), the source, whatsoever it may be, of every harmony.". The implication was, in Emile's mind, that reductionism, or euclidianism, was a special case of holism or non-euclidianism and that one complemented the other; i.e. the reductionist world of 'things' and 'thing' oriented properties and causal behaviors could be seen in terms of an ensemble of imagined (abstracted) spatially extended closed forms which were stripped out of the ontogenetic space-time flow and re-animated along an artificial linear time axis (signal). Reductionist 'laws' could then be seen in terms of generalized ad hoc tautologies of the form 'see Spot run' wherein the notion of the 'thing' and the notions of 'force' and 'properties' were mutually defining, as in language.

Meanwhile, this abstract and innately two dimensional 'ratiocinative' view of the world was contained within, and complementary to, the fully three dimensional curved space world (spheres within spheres as Abbott had put it in 'Flatland') of qualitative patterns understood in terms of 'intuition' or 'geometrical-physical theorizing'.

As Emile reached for a chocolate, he noticed that the Christmas theme was already beginning to emerge and the top of the box was decorated with a large and jolly Santa Claus. Emile thought back to the days when he had believed in Santa Claus, and was still smiling as he bit into the chocolate that he had selected. In those days, the solid clunk of his teeth bottoming out on a hard center used to give him a secure sense of engagement with the chocolate, orienting his focus to the reductive mechanics of its consumption. This time however, as he had hoped, it was a soft center; ... he smiled as his eyes went skywards and crossed slightly, like kevin kline's in the bedroom scene from 'A Fish Called Wanda', as he opened himself up the soft-centered delight. In the midst of his jouissance, Emile saw the image of the Zen circle with its ambiguous symbolic annotation which brought yang-cause into unity with yin-purpose; 'the void which must be filled', ... ''enter from here'.

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