Space/Time, Ethics and Rational Anarchism
"I don't think there are any Russians
And there ain't no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
playin' with tanks"
- The Call
I have read several philosophical papers on the asymmetries of time. Like everyone else, I've seen many movies on time travel and enjoyed the apparent paradoxes that it entails (e.g. traveling back in time only to cause the death of an ancestor, thereby negating one's existence). I'd like to propose that these analyses of time are incorrect. Specifically, I'd like to point out that one must make a sharp distinction between time as a dimension and time as it is perceived.
The fundamental flaw in human perception is its inability to perceive time in the same continuous fashion that it perceives space. In reality, time and space are not distinct, they are one universe and time is merely that other direction not included in the first three. For whatever reason, our senses have developed to monitor space as a continuum while only monitoring time as a derivative of the perception of space. Since we do not monitor time directly, we build a story explaining a sequence of changes in the observation of space and call that story "time". The story, however, is neither time nor an accurate portrayal of time, it is merely our limited and flawed representation of time.
If we could "see" time the way we see space, our view of the universe would change completely. Objects in the universe would not have only three dimensions, they would have four. Those objects would zig-zag through the four dimensional universe. There would be a point in their path that represents the point at which they either popped into existence or transitioned from being a different set of objects into our subject object. There would be another point in their path that represents the point at which they either popped out of existence or transitioned into being a different set of object. Therefore, throughout its path through space/time, any point of the path along the temporal dimension is merely a spatial slice of the entire object. These spatial slices are what we "see" with our senses. The story of "time" is an attempt to account for the sequence of slices that we call the history of the object. At any "point in time" we see not the object but only a slice of it.
It is easy to draw an analogy from two-dimensional experience. Let's perform the following mental experiment.
Imagine that a picket fence is placed in a yard. A television camera is placed in front of the picket fence at some location where a gap between pickets allows us to see a vertical line exposing what is behind the fence. The camera is not allowed to move. We sit at a television monitor watching what is behind the picket fence through the vertical gap displayed on our television monitor. Next, we place a cat in the yard behind the fence. The cat runs past the gap. Observing the cat pass, we see a small vertical segment, perhaps black in color, representing a one dimensional slice of the cat's nose. As the cat runs by, we see this vertical segment grow, first to the size of the cat's head and then to the size of the cat's body and then to the size of the cat's tail and then it disappears all together. If we replay it in slow motion we may see an occasional smaller vertical segment appear where the cat's paws or legs pass in front of the gap. Sometimes this segment will be an extension of the other segment and other times it will be disconnected from the other segment (that is, if through the line there is a gap due to the curve of the cat's leg, the two segments will be disjoint. In such cases, it may appear that part of one segment became two segments (analogous to one object becoming two distinct objects).
This experience is exactly analogous to our perception of four dimensional objects through a three dimensional gap.
If we observe the "history" of objects we have encountered, we find that they either have always been here (relative to our own conscious existence) or that they have been made from other objects. Ignoring the transformation of energy into matter and matter into energy (something outside of our ordinary experience), all things, since they have been, appear to be derived from things before them. Likewise, all things that cease to be do not "pop out of existence" but are transformed into other things. Indeed, if we believe as I do that matter and energy are just two manifestations of the same underlying substrate, then this holds for transformations between matter and energy as well.
Assuming the theory of the "Big Bang" is true - that all that exists came into being from a singularity, and given the fact that all objects are actually paths through space/time, and given that all objects derive from other objects, all things in the universe are actually part of the same object. That is, everything that exists is a path through space/time back to the singularity. In truth, we are all one.
Furthermore, consider the history of the human species. Whether there was one first human or whether there were a set of first humans, all derived from a progenitor species, analysis of human mitochondrial DNA proves that there exists one woman to whom we can trace our birthing relationship, through a sequence of mothers. And since, as we know, all children were once part of their mothers, there is an object in space/time, called the human race, which at our current spatial slice of space/time appears to be 5 billion separate objects but which, in reality, is a tree with 5 billion terminal points all stretching back to a common trunk, this woman, and then branching back outward into roots. In space/time, the real universe, there is no human race. Instead, there is only object human object and we are just spatial slices of that object.
Since time is symmetrical, it must be the case that causation does not only move from past to future. This illusion is a product of our perception and the way we create a "story" of time rather than seeing time as it really is. In the real universe, objects and portions of objects effect each other in all directions, both in space and time. Therefore, future events cause past events just as much as past events cause future events. This concept will be rejected by all but the few who have experienced this reality (I propose that some of us are actually "unstuck in time" in the way that a flatlander in the book Flatland became unstuck from two dimensional space). I intend to write more on this in the future (let us say that because there exists a slice of the above described tree that writes about this in the "future", this paper is being written now. That is, the "future" paper is causing me to write this paper and not the other way around).
As stated above, we are all one (in space/time) and causation moves in all directions in space/time. It follows, then, that everything we do can potentially effect everyone "else" (i.e. the spatial slices of the tree). Any theory of ethics, therefore, must take into account the assumption that every action is not isolated and must be taken with forethought lest we harm "another" (that other, being an extension of our actual selves, the tree). Our rational self interest, therefore, embraces what is good for the "tree" and not for a spatial slice of that tree (that which we call the "self.") Any philosophy that fails to take this into account does not promote rational self interest. Specifically, the Objectivist Philosophy of Ayn Rand, with its inability to acknowledge that "altruism" benefits the real self (the "tree"), fails to satisfy the rational self interest and, therefore, contradicts itself. Any theory that contradicts itself is invalid. I have now destroyed Objectivism.
Let us now consider class warfare. Class warfare is a concept understood by both employment based capitalists (hereafter referred to as "conventional capitalists") and communists. Communists openly recognize class warfare as a dynamic in society while conventional capitalists, knowing that they are murdering their fellow man through their class warfare, pretend that it does not exist (at least publicly). It is to the advantage of conventional capitalist to pretend that it does not exist specifically because they are winning the class war. It is to the advantage of the communist to openly call for class war because they are losing the class war and need recruits.
Conventional capitalism and communism, therefore, are part of the same event in space/time. Seen four dimensionally, one part of the human tree is constantly strangling another part of the human tree. The strangled portions are attempting to muster other portions against the stranglers. While this may seem just and noble (that the strangled portions resist the strangling portions of the tree), the resultant battle harms the whole tree. No organism (and we ARE one organism) does well when it attempts to kill another portion of itself. Indeed, whenever communist movements succeed, they reverse the class war and become the stranglers of the pervious stranglers. In the end, all of the human tree suffers.
All systems that preach or practice class warfare are against the rational self interest of the human tree. Therefore, conventional capitalism and communism are enemies of the human tree - better thought of as cancers.
What the human tree needs is a system that promotes harmony within the tree - not conflict. The misconceptions of conventional capitalism and communism derive from the notion that "economics" is the root of social relations. I propose that ethics and not economics is the root of social relations. All economic systems derive from the principles of ethical systems. Bad ethical systems lead to bad economics. Both conventional capitalism and communism are based on bad ethical systems. Capitalism's ethical system derives from the false notion that we are all separable individuals. The fact is that we are not separable individuals - we are all part of the same whole. Communism's ethical system derives from a Marxist notion that economics is scientific, not ethical, and therefore can be based on plans and management. If you look at a complex adaptive system, such as the human body, you find that the cells of the body coordinate THEMSELVES. Very little in the way of central control is present. Even the brain itself has no central control over itself. Each cell cooperates by responding to the causal reality surrounding it. The human body works not through plans but through the distributed self regulation of billions of cells, none of whom have a plan for the future.
If we view human "individuals" as a spatial slice of the four dimensional human tree, we see that they are much like cells in the body of the larger organism known has humanity. They cannot be coordinated by plans or by a central authority. Their actions must be guided by a set of principles describing how it is that they respond to the causal effects of their neighbors. If those principles are sound and good (i.e. a good system of ethics), the spatial slices will act in a way that benefits the whole. A healthy whole will make a happy home for the spatial slices. Any good political philosophy must be based on the decentralized application of a good ethical system. Any system of economics that arises must be the natural product of that ethical system. It is not important whether it is called capitalism (in the self-employment sense) or libertarian socialism (in the anarchist sense). So long as the principle of non-exploitation is a fundamental part of the ethical system, the resulting economics will be good for humanity. The only political philosophy that embraces this ethics based anarchism is Rational Anarchism. Rational Anarchism distinguishes itself from both conventional capitalism and communism by proposing a gift economy based on the choice between voluntary collectivism and self employment. Rational Anarchism is a post-industrial anarchism intended for a post-industrial world.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article