The Ways of Knowing

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The Ways of Knowing

Adam Elwood (particle physics PhD & AI researcher)

Quote:In this article I want to introduce and explore the implications of the two fundamental ways in which we understand the world, through our intuition and models. This leads us to the conclusion that, due to the limitations of our brains and the experiences we have with them, we can never be sure exactly how our view of the world corresponds to reality itself…

Quote:There is a commonly held belief amongst physicists that the search for a unified physical theory, a model built on one mathematical framework, is the pursuit of reality itself. This quest is currently stuck on the incompatibility of gravity with quantum field theory, but a final theory may well be possible. However, given the argument made so far, I think it is worth pondering whether the rules of physics can be anything other than a model that gives us a way of making predictions about the world. As any final theory would be based on mathematics, there are a series of blindspots. There is no way of conveying conscious experience with mathematics, the qualia of the colour blue can not be conveyed with symbols and equations. Maybe this is what Stephen Hawkins was considering when he asked: What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern?

Quote:However, due to the limitations of our physical manifestation, we cannot allow ourselves to believe that our models correspond to reality itself. Instead, we should hold them lightly, treating them as tools that can help us to reach our goals. Even as the austere power of science continues to expand our understanding, we should not be seduced into a dogmatic scientific materialism. This then gives us the freedom to open our mind to other ways of thinking about the world, for the utility rather than verity. We can open ourselves up to the more subtle understanding conveyed in ancient wisdom or through non-conceptual emotional experience.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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