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An Inquiry Into the Human Prospect: an Overview, Part Two

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Continued from Part One

For all intents and purposes, capitalism and socialism are indistinguishable. That’s the gist of Heilbroner’s argument for the primacy of socioeconomic arrangements over the political ones in the post-industrial societies. For the remainder of this article I’ll try to unpack Heilbroner’s paradoxical argument and expose the underlying rationale.

From the get-go, Heilbroner forgoes making his case by arguing from any particular example of capitalism or socialism, past or present. On the capitalist side of the ledger, he lists such diverse variants of the economic system in place as those exhibited by the United States, England, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Japan. Although it may be tempting to single out the US as the typical capitalist nation, Heilbroner points out, and quite rightly, that certain contemporary features typically attributed to a capitalist system in general as endemic – for instance, racism, militarism and social neglect – “are not to be found in like degree in all capitalist nations…, [whereas they may well be] discoverable in non-capitalist nations such as the [former] Soviet Union.”

Likewise with the socialist nation-states. Aside from the former Russia (and many of its then-satellites), we could point to the former Yugoslavia or, however briefly, to Czechoslovakia as hosting another major variant of the socialist order, both featuring, as Heilbroner called it, a “socialism with a human face”; or even to the kind of socialist order that has already emerged or is likely to emerge (don’t forget, it’s the 1974 perspective!) in the underdeveloped world. (Latin America is the most fertile ground, and Chile, Venezuela and Bolivia are the prime examples.)

It is therefore unwarranted, Heilbroner argues, to look to the United States or to its presumed arch-rival, the Soviets, as representing capitalism or socialism either pure or proper, unless we do so strictly “by virtue of…[their] size, power, or global dominance.” To do so, however, would be to ignore the very considerations just raised: there’s just too much variance to go around to regard either dominant form as “typical”; it may well be an aberration, a caricature of what capitalism or socialism either could be or was meant to be, end of story. So no, concludes Heilbroner, we can’t argue with any degree of confidence by examining the individual cases, but only by considering the ideal types. Hence his rudimentary definition of capitalism as:

. . . an economic order marked by the private ownership of the means of production vested in the minority class called “capitalists,” and by a market system that determines the incomes and distributes the outputs arising from its productive activity…[and] a social order characterized by a “bourgeois” culture, among whose manifold aspects the drive for wealth is the most important…[and of socialism as] an economic system [which prides itself on at least partial] replacement of private property and the market with some form of public ownership and planning.

Since, by and large, the difference between the two systems seems to turn on the ownership of, and the rights to, the means of production, including the disposition of the accumulated surplus/profit, one would think that Heilbroner might consider it a relevant enough distinction to run with. It is all the more significant, therefore, that he does not, and so we must ask, Why not? What other consideration(s) could possibly weigh heavier for him than the act of implementing a dictum from what seems Marx’s own playbook?

One obvious answer must be that Heilbroner never really considers communism as a serious alternative to capitalism, only socialism (and there’s a world of difference between the first two, but more on that later). What’s more immediate, however, is Heilbroner’s express purpose and the resulting focus: it is, after all, the dangers to the human prospect, the humanity’s very survival, that he’s concerned with; more so at any rate than with the complex problem of attaining social justice; and from this particular perspective, Heilbroner is not to be faulted. Which is to say that from the standpoint of meeting and responding to the listed challenges alone, he thinks both socioeconomic systems virtually indistinguishable (in the long run). To his mind, they appear to have more in common in the aforementioned respect than whatever it is that separates them. Consider, for instance, the following excerpt:

. . . the economic success of industrial socialism, in and of itself, has not brought a corresponding rise in general “happiness” or social contentment, much as with the mixed record of economic success and social disappointment of capitalism.

And right after,

I do not make this assertion to claim that industrial socialism has therefore failed: on the contrary, I imagine that in the minds of the majority of its citizens is has “succeeded,” to much the same degree as capitalism. Rather, I call attention to the situation within the industrial socialist world to stress the surprising similarity of outcomes between two otherwise widely different systems. Each has been marked with serious operational difficulties; each has overcome these difficulties with economic growth. Each has succeeded in raising its level of material consumption; each has been unable to produce a climate of social satisfaction. This leads to the suggestion that common elements of great importance [equally] affect the adaptability of both systems to the challenges of the human prospect.

Aside now from the fact that Heilbroner’s claim concerning the relative economic successes of both systems (circa 1974) merits a serious revision, everything else he says is pretty much on target. More importantly, however, in the immediately following paragraph he carries the ball further by identifying “these common elements as the forces and structures of scientific technology on which both systems depend for their momentum.”

This suggestion [he continues] would least seem to need supporting argument in explaining the ability of both systems to achieve economic growth, despite the malfunctions of the market in one case and of planning machinery in the other. All the processes of industrial production that are the material end products of scientific technology have one characteristic of overwhelming effect – their capability of enormously magnifying human productivity by endowing men with literally superhuman abilities to control the physical and chemical attributes of nature. Once an industrial system has been established – a historic process that has been as painful for capitalism as for socialism – it truly resembles a gigantic machine that asserts its productive powers despite the sabotage of businessmen or bureaucrats.

There only remains to trace “the common disappointments of [both] capitalism and socialism with regard to the achievement of ‘happiness’…to the presence of scientific technology and the industrial civilization that is built upon it…” and Heilbroner’s argument is well nigh complete. And once he pays lip service to conventional wisdom whereby the social ills and dissatisfactions “may have their roots in the capitalist ethos” in one instance, and in “the repressive political and social institutions” in the other; notice that Heilbroner is being evenhanded here. He is equally unimpressed with deficiencies in the area of social/economic justice (see above) as with human rights and freedoms, presumably the exclusive province of western-style democracies! He closes his argument with this superb passage:

. . . industrial civilization achieves its economic success by imposing common values on both its capitalist and socialist variants. There is the value of the self-evident importance of efficiency, with its tendency to subordinate the optimum human scale of things to the optimum technical scale. There is the value of the need to “tame” the environment, with its consequence of an unthinking pillage of nature. There is the value of the priority of production itself, visible in the care both systems lavish on technical virtuosity and the indifference with which both look upon the aesthetic aspects of life. All these values manifest themselves throughout bourgeois and “socialist” styles of life, both lived by the clock, organized by the factory or office, obsessed with material achievements, attuned to highly quantitative modes of thought – in a word, by styles of life that, in contrast with non-industrial civilizations, seem dazzlingly rich in every dimension except that of the cultivation of the human person. The malaise that I believe flickers within our consciousness thus seems to afflict industrial socialist as well as capitalist societies, because it is a malady ultimately rooted in the “imperatives” of a common mode of production.

And so here it is in a nutshell: It is “civilizational malaise,” marked by “the [unprecedented] presence of science and technology as the driving forces of our age,” that defines for Heilbroner the common denominator of all post-industrial societies, be they capitalist or socialist, newly-emerging or still extant and decadent. It is the same civilizational malaise that serves as the crucible in which modern-day societies are shaped and molded, as the general environment from which, in the process of so forming, they derive their essential characteristics. It is civilizational malaise that is the great leveler here, irrespective of the kind of socioeconomic system about to emerge, with the result that capitalism and socialism are virtually indistinguishable for him when it comes to either system’s capacity to adapt and respond to the external dangers facing us. And it is civilizational malaise again, so defined and understood, that is the ultimate source of those very dangers.

I believe this dissolves the paradox with which we had started; socioeconomic arrangements (or relations) derive their primacy for Heilbroner by virtue of the fact that, regardless of what particular form they may assume in this case or in that, they’re pretty much fixed features of any post-industrial society, fixed in that they necessarily reflect the civilizational malaise just spoken of, the defining characteristic of our times. What role does Heilbroner assign to the political in his schema? What difference can politics possibly make? These are the questions we must ask next.

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • Dr Dreadful

    Heilbroner’s surprise that the same conditions could be found regardless of whether the countries concerned were nominally capitalist or socialist might have been lessened had he considered that both of these economic systems are invariably run by humans.

  • Anarcissie

    They are also predominantly authoritarian. The idea of socialism (‘the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers’) as something to be implemented by a government is especially dubious.

  • roger nowosielski

    I’m not certain, Dreadful, he’s surprised: in any case, I didn’t mean to leave that impression. Consider the following quote:

    “Can we expect an industrial socialist society, be it characterized by authoritarian or by democratic government, to weather such a transformation more easily than a capitalist society, ‘private’ or state? I doubt it. Both socio-economic systems are committed to a civilization whose most striking aspect is based on more than than the resistances and inertias of vested interests that we find throughout history when established models of production become obsolete. It is also founded on a political consideration, namely whether any society can bring about alterations of this magnitude through the
    conscious intervention of men, rather than by convulsive changes forced upon men.”

    The transformation Heilbroner refers to has to do with the following question:

    “… whether we are unable to sustain growth or unable to tolerate it, there can be no doubt that a radically different future beckons. In either eventuality it seems beyond dispute that the present orientation of society must change. In place of the long-established encouragement of industrial production must come its careful restriction and long-term diminution within society. In place of prodigalities of consumption must come new frugal attitudes. In these and other ways, the ‘post-industrial’ society of the future is apt to be as different from the present-day industrial society as the latter was from its pre-industrial precursor.”

  • roger nowosielski


    Precisely. Heilbroner’s major weakness: he can’t fathom the possibility of a solution (even on a local level) to the kinds of problems facing humanity other than within the confines of nation-states.

  • Anarcissie

    Heilbroner was mainly active in an era when anarchistic ideas were simply not taken seriously by persons of his class, culture and respectability.

  • roger nowosielski

    You’re running ahead of me, of course. Even so, his dismissal of the “political solution,” and the reasons for that, should be instructive even for today’s thinkers of Marxist-anarchistic persuasion (as per a number of previous comments by troll and Les Slater). I’ll play out the tension between the economic and the political for as long as possible (like in a good chess game) until the air is clear at last.

  • roger nowosielski

    @1, Dreadful

    I’d like to pick up on a latent sub-theme which seems to drive this remark: “…invariably run by humans” is the clue.

    Although not quite as explicit, it does seem to reverberate the idea expressed by Christopher Rose on another thread (perhaps he can provide the link, as I can’t seem to locate it), whereby the notion of a radical change (of the whole system) — “ethos” is another term — seems to be linked to, and made contingent on, a change in leadership.

    Any comments on this, Chris, Dreadful? — for my notion of leadership, and of how it figures in, is different. Essentially, I see it as an expression of the prevailing ethos (rather than merely forging it anew).

    Of course we need fresh voices out there, but I think they’re most effective in the formative stages (as in our upbringing of children, for instance). But what you and Chris seem to be saying: … if only humans were “better,” then … (fill in the blanks).

  • Anarcissie

    Well, I was making an excuse for Heilbroner. His framework or mindset was not challenged within his environment in his more active years. The Sixties and its aftermath(s) seem to have washed over him with little effect.

  • roger nowosielski

    I think you’re right ’bout that if “the Sixties” mean for you the popularization of anarchistic thought. Does being anti-Establishment come to the same thing? Was that the message of The Power Elite? Somehow, I think most of the protesters still believed in the government, in a “better” government.

    Was Heilbroner as “liberated” as the French intellectuals of his time, Sartre, Camus, etc? Of course not. Still, for an American man of letters an

  • roger nowosielski


    … and a representative of his class and culture he was (although one can detect a patronizing tone). Even the very idea of putting both capitalism and socialism on the same footing, as both riddled with relative successes and failures, short of being a card-carrying Communist, was a novel idea for an American intellectual.

  • Igor

    Capitalism and communism are more alike than different. They are the Cain and Abel of human political manias. Brothers, born of the same milieu. You get to choose which is Cain and which is Abel.

    They are not even a distinct dichotomy since between them they are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. They really are brothers.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Roger, I just meant that Heilbroner’s observation that capitalist and socialist systems seem to end up sharing certain distinctive features can be accounted for because certain desires and behaviours are common to all humans. A change in leadership can effect some retooling, usually minor, but radical change is either going to take a long time with many intermediate steps (cf. our pre-agricultural ancestors vs. our post-industrial selves), or require a significant external forcer (e.g. a large asteroid impact, supervolcano eruption or invasion by a hostile force).

  • roger nowosielski

    We agree, then, if by common desires and behaviors in this case mean a desire for comfort, for more material goods, etc., all the things, in other words, which drive industrial and technological development;

    and on two: that any radical change, if it’s to happen abruptly, is not going to come about as a result of “any conscious intervention of men, [but] rather . . . by convulsive changes forced upon men.” (#3

  • Cindy

    Civilizational malaise, another description of “dominator hangover”.

    I like these bits best:

    Each has succeeded in raising its level of material consumption; each has been unable to produce a climate of social satisfaction.

    All these values manifest themselves throughout bourgeois and “socialist” styles of life, both lived by the clock, organized by the factory or office, obsessed with material achievements, attuned to highly quantitative modes of thought – in a word, by styles of life that, in contrast with non-industrial civilizations, seem dazzlingly rich in every dimension except that of the cultivation of the human person.

    A lot to think about.

  • Igor

    @9-Roger: The Power Elite? C. Wright Mills?

    From out of the past…

  • roger nowosielski

    Indeed, Igor.

    Yes, Cindy, and that’s from the mouth of an arch-conservative.

  • Cindy

    I think if one looks at some of the worker owned factories, the ‘domination hangover’ can be relieved.

    I don’t think it is of necessity the fact of industrialization, I think it is the relationships created by industrialization.

    Thus, a change in the relationships can leave one with a tile factory that supports human happiness and enriches the spirit of human connectedness.

    See FaSinPat (short for Fábrica Sin Patrones, in English: Factory without bosses), the current name of the worker owned factory in Argentina that used to be Zanon Ceramics.

    Heart of the Factory (2008)
    Corazón de fabrica (original title)

    In 2001, the economic crisis in Argentina hundreds of factories closed. But Ceramica Zanon workers, decided to take their jobs and began to produce and manage the factory themselves. No bosses or bosses. In these years had to overcome boycotts and violent eviction attempts. But with the support of the community of Neuquén, became the most important reference of recovered factories.

    Virna Molina and Ernesto Ardito were living inside the factory in 2005. Creating a documentary film that analyzes direct recording from the privacy of each situation, the operation of a factory without bosses. With a further close, with great sensitivity film and tense climates, the viewer enters the world of human conflict, organizational and political group as that of another worker.
    But the film does not dwell on the situation, but more widely immerses us in an analysis of contradictions, achievements and problems of coexistence who move to any human organization.

    CORAZON DE FABRICA (Heart of the Factory), with English subtitles, a link I got from the filmmakers’ site.

  • roger nowosielski

    Yes, this connects with Marx’s concept of alienation (from the fruits and pleasures of one’s labor) and with Durkheim’s concept of anomie. But given the conditions of “labor for hire,” there is no meaningful relationship to speak of, and lives are indeed being run by the clock and the factory or office.

  • Cindy
  • roger nowosielski

    Great postcard, Cindy

  • Cindy

    The Double Slit Experiment

    That will blow you away, Roger. We will talk after. There is more than philosophy or psychology or economics or postmodernism or social construction of reality and narrative. There is quantum physics.

    That is partly my focus as well as other videos I have listed for you. I hope you will go back and watch them as they relate to our topic and are not just thread decorations :-).

    Anyway, I look forward to talking to you after you have absorbed that easily comprehended but amazing to comprehend experiment.

  • roger nowosielski


  • Cindy

    So Roger,

    The things I am looking at are reinforcing and informing our topic, but from a perspective that is coming from biology and physics.

    In case you lost track of the links I posted before, here is a link to a video lecture by Robert Lanza on Biocentrism.

    In the first 3 minutes you will see how this enriches all that we have discussed about the social construction of reality and adds another dimension–the possibility that the entire universe does not arise from a physics accident, but that it arises from our consciousness.

    The book: Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe

    Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) is a perspective on the non-duality of consciousness, again along the lines of reinforcing the ideas we have been dealing with.

  • roger nowosielski

    Will make a deal with you, Cindy. If you re-read the articles numbered 81, 83, 84, 85, 86 and 87 (see this link) in the listed order and try to get a general sense of where I’m going with all this, I’ll look at your material and offer an observation or two.


  • Cindy

    I will be happy to reread your articles, Roger. However, I cannot make any “deal”.

    Look at what I have provided you, for your own edification or not at all, at your option. Perhaps you would not find cutting edge theory in scientific thinking that supports your philosophy or importance. I need no comments. These are gifts.

  • Cindy

    And another thing, Roger. Perhaps your articles are above my head. I am not being self-deprecating. I am not a philosopher. I have no experience with the intricacies of thought that must abound in your writing. Some of it will be lost on me. I get from it what I get. But, let me say, though I appreciate it, it is dense and difficult to comprehend, for my brain–which as you can see, prefers video to written words, and cartoon videos where I can get them.

  • roger nowosielski

    I guess I asked for it, didn’t I?

    In any case, I’m well aware that you offered your links as a gift. I was only trying to spur you on by means of a quid pro quo.

    I don’t think these articles are “above your head,” as you say. They are “dense” and may require some struggling with, just as I had to struggle with them to present my thoughts as concisely as possible, but as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

    All I’m trying to do, in my not so humble opinion, is to re-invent a theoretical/conceptual framework for the anarchistic thought/political philosophy.

    Here are the essential elements:

    (1) debunking the concept of rights as a vestige of liberal political philosophy;

    (2) doing away with the contractual basis as the presumed MO of social/political relations, and replacing it with an “organic” concept of loyalty (which combines our natural trait of affinity with functionality); and in so doing, anchoring the political impulse in us in our human makeup

    (3) Hammering in the point that most of our goals and projects are essentially “collective endeavors,” and that (therefore) the concept of individual rights — the things I am entitled to — should take second seat to a certain sense of indebtedness to the community — hence, a movement away from individual rights to individual responsibilities.

    So perhaps rather than re-reading the whole thing, just start with this article and we’ll take it from there. It serves as a set-up.

  • Glen Contrarian

    Cindy –

    I know what you mean. I don’t have a problem grokking articles on science, but Roger’s are too much for me –

    and Rog, please take that as a compliment. I like to brag (only to myself) about my intelligence, but your philosophical arguments help to keep me humble…which is why I rarely comment on them. Come to think of it, that last just might be one of the reasons you enjoy writing articles like this….

  • Cindy

    Okay Roger, I will start there. And I must have missed that article.

    If you watch Lanza tell me what you think. I bet you will be amazed that a biologist is in line with reality construction. And only he explains it to me in such a simple way I can see it!

    What must butter be like without the interpretation our mind gives it? It doesn’t exist without a mind to create our perception of it. It would be a whole lot different without that mind.

  • Cindy

    It simply could never exist out there as we see, feel, taste it. The very act of our consciousness’s interaction with it creates its ‘reality’.

  • Cindy

    …creates the reality of butter that we see. (better)

  • Cindy

    Thanks for your solidarity, Glenn.

  • roger nowosielski

    A possible context for discussing your links?

  • roger nowosielski

    A guide to the philosophy of mind

  • Cindy

    Does non-locality of consciousness fit in with those, Roger? I don’t see it listed.

    Also I should have posted Orchestrated objective reduction again.

    These solutions to the mind body problem are very intriguing. I think that they are a bit different from the thought up to now.

    Does anything there ask what if the brain is a radio and consciousness is the station being tuned into?

  • Cindy

    How about asking if consciousness is an entanglement? Interesting question, isn’t it?

    Gotta love research that tries to answer stuff like that!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    I wrote an article back in 2011 that asked something close to that very question – not so much as to whether consciousness is an entanglement, but whether some of the things that we feel – such as sympathy pains – are actually due to entanglement. Just the other day our 87 y.o. resident got up at 4:30 in the morning – she’d never done so before and not since – and was very agitated. We had to medicate her in order for her to get back to sleep. Turns out that was almost the exact time when her sister had passed away about eight miles away. Medical history is rife with such stories.

    My article was met with, well, a not-so-wee bit of derision…but more and more I think I’m on to something with it.

  • Newtonian physics, especially the theory of gravity, convinced many people that ‘spooky action at a distance’ was possible, and thus reignited interest in the possibility of witchcraft. Others derided it.

  • roger nowosielski

    The non-locality of consciousness, Cindy, is comparable to the non-locality of the older term — soul. Consciousness, of course, is a relatively speaking modern term.

  • There is often some confusion between consciousness and information. ‘I became conscious of the presence of someone else in the dark room’ is a statement, not about consciousness as a thing in itself, but about information derived from one’s environment — an observation. Information, as we learn from Claude Shannon’s work, is relative to an observer and therefore would seem to require some kind of locality or framework. Consciousness, as the thing experienced by at least some entities in the universe (us) might not.

    The classic statement of the problem of consciousness, or the ‘mind-body problem’ is the essay ‘What Is It Like To Be A Bat?’. The easiest solution is to postulate that everything in the universe is conscious (panpsychism), but this makes the subject impervious to analysis and thus maybe less interesting.

    I don’t think QM has a lot to do with this issue. Weird (weird to us) observations like the double-slit experiment do indicate that things are connected in ways we do not yet understand, but human ignorance is hardly a surprise.

  • roger nowosielski

    I am conscious (aware) of . . . x

    “conscious,” “aware” — verb/action form
    “consciousness,” “awareness” — noun form
    X –the object, the referent, (information?)

    Illustrates the usual dichotomy between verb and noun forms; the former are concrete, the latter abstract, theory-laden, metaphysical. When in doubt, stick to the former.

    Also explains the proclivity of the Germans/German language for metaphysics, especially on account of their constructing complex nouns.

    The philosophical position to explain away consciousness by attributing it even to subatomic particles is reductive.

  • Also explains the proclivity of the Germans/German language for metaphysics, especially on account of their constructing complex nouns.

    And adjectives.

  • Well, I’d say consciousness (the thing-in-itself, not information processing) is primordial. We can make it our wallpaper, our sky. So we have irreducible consciousness, and the manifold peculiarities of Information Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Relativity…. Whither now?

  • Cindy

    I see consciousness as both non-local, and unreliant on subatomic particles. I am thinking perhaps subatomic particles (or what have you – cells, brains) may be involved in the physical manifestation of non-local consciousness into a temporary locality, rather than the source/creator of consciousness.

  • roger nowosielski

    @ 43 Yes, the non-reductive view is philosophically sound, but it involves acceptance of mystery.

    Cindy’s analogy (radio & radio station) is very intriguing, as is the notion of entanglement.

    We can think of different levels of consciousness, as something that is developing/growing.

  • Well, we should be used to mystery. I am wondering where you all want to go with it. I suppose the abundance of mystery impugns authority, so as an anarchist I should appreciate it.

  • roger nowosielski

    It’s a digression, of course, as per Cindy’s links re: biocentrism. I don’t want to burst the bubble just yet. Waiting for “troll” to chime in with a cryptic remark.

  • roger nowosielski

    And btw, I’m quite content to leave certain things to mystery, especially when it concerns the ineffable.

  • Cindy

    Well, I am not content to leave the ineffable alone. I have subjected it to a variety of modes of science. I am very excited that the ineffable is getting more effable. 🙂

    It cheers me up anyway.

  • Cindy

    Anyway I find that the materialist pov is adequately challenged with evidence today.

  • roger nowosielski

    It’s our duty, if we’re to live up to our potential, to try to say what’s ineffable, but it’s got to be responsible speech. After all, speech it’s all we’ve got, whether it’s science or ordinary language.

  • Cindy

    Okay, I don’t quite understand what you mean. Can you say it a different way?

  • roger nowosielski

    Speech/language is all we’ve got. Surely you understand that. So it doesn’t really matter what “reality” really is because it’s always, and necessarily so, mediated by language. And therefore, since language is all we’ve got, we have to speak responsibly. What we say has got to count, make a difference, etc.

  • Cindy


    (I think.)

  • Cindy

    So, like, we should not be irresponsible? What would that look like?

  • roger nowosielski

    Again, words is all we have. What we say has got to make a difference; otherwise it’s empty talk. That’s what responsibility comes to.

  • roger nowosielski

    And I’m still waiting for “troll” to comment on “biocentrism.” Obviously, it’s a come-on, but the subject/topic you raised can be exploited to serve as a valuable object lesson — not just to you but all and sundry, Dreadful, Chris Rose, etc. That’s why I’m harping on it, but I need a push & shove, from “troll,” to make the case. I want it to emerge naturally, in the course of a question-and-answer period, as Socrates would have it. Otherwise, it would appear contrived, strained.

  • Cindy

    Maybe you have to throw a dead squirrel under his bridge or something…

  • roger nowosielski

    I surely would if it’d work.

  • Cindy

    I would also like to hear what troll says on biocentrism.

    And,I am okay on the “responsibility” idea. You really did just mean that. Odd, but I thought it would be a more complicated philosophy language.

  • roger nowosielski

    Not really. I always try to say what I mean and mean what I say, though I’m not always successful.

    As for “troll,” not weighing in on the subject, I kinda understand that. Now, he’s a paramount example of a responsible speaker, more so than I am.

    I am more daring, take chances, etc.

  • roger nowosielski


    Well, not always, as when I’m in my Socratic mode, which is … always?

  • Cindy

    I put Part 1 of Lanza’s lecture. But since we are discussing this more, I will repost Part one and add Part 2, which also may be of interest.

    Robert Lanza on Theory of Biocentrism (Part 1)

    Robert Lanza on Theory of Biocentrism (Part 2)

  • roger nowosielski

    “In his first book on consciousness, The Emperor’s New Mind (1989), Penrose made Gödel’s theorem the basis of what quickly became an intensely controversial claim.[1] He argued that while a formal proof system cannot, because of the theorem, prove its own incompleteness, Gödel-type results are provable by human mathematicians. He takes this disparity to mean that human mathematicians are not describable as formal proof systems, and are not therefore running an algorithm. He asserted that the brain could perform functions that no computer could perform, known as “non-computable” functions.

    The inescapable conclusion seems to be: Mathematicians are not using a knowably sound calculation procedure in order to ascertain mathematical truth. We deduce that mathematical understanding – the means whereby mathematicians arrive at their conclusions with respect to mathematical truth – cannot be reduced to blind calculation![2]”

    A citation from the link in #35

    All that this means, Cindy, is that Godel’s theorems (in this instance) have the status of a meta-linguistic statement/observation (about a given language) and are not therefore provable by the rules of that language.

  • Igor

    Godels theorems are based on the Existential Calculus of Russell and Whitehead as described and formalized in Principia Mathematica, which is provably consistent.

    I don’t see the problem.

  • Cindy


    Are you sure that is what you meant to say?

    The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913. In 1927, it appeared in a second edition with an important Introduction To the Second Edition, an Appendix A that replaced ?9 and an all-new Appendix C.
    PM, as it is often abbreviated, was an attempt to describe a set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic from which all mathematical truths could in principle be proven. As such, this ambitious project is of great importance in the history of mathematics and philosophy,[1] being one of the foremost products of the belief that such an undertaking may have been achievable. However, in 1931, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem proved for good that PM, and in fact any other attempt, could never achieve this lofty goal; that is, for any set of axioms and inference rules proposed to encapsulate mathematics, there would in fact be some truths of mathematics which could not be deduced from them.
    wikipedia, see Principa Mathematica

  • troll

    I knew a guy once upon a time who dissipated clouds with his mind…it took a while sometimes but he was always successful

    practically speaking though – when I propose that making a living by providing a service creates a need for that service (eg folks who put food on their tables by providing mental health services create crazy people) my colleagues scoff

    ps thanks for the squirrel

  • troll

    yup – what if the universe really does constantly fine tune itself…I think in that case we’d best be vewy vewy quiet