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MoM and the Scientific World View

An introduction to the new paradigm that we have always known

Korzybski missed it when he wrote in 'Science and Sanity' about the verb 'to be' that on one thing is another. He said that the unspeakable objects of our experience are not the words that we use to describe them. This dichotomy has troubled thinking from Aristotle to the modern day. Whether in religion, politics or science, the endeavor is to describe the world and how it functions. Many philosophers have pointed out the futility of this since we are intimately involved in the construction of our worlds through our experience and other pathways. In other words we can never truly know what the world is. And yet, engineers build machines that can explore the solar system through this system of understanding that is supposed to be futile. The fundamental principle of the metaphysics of metaphor states that "We cannot know what the world is, but we can know what it is like." And this shift of emphasis changes the world.

Scientists understand this, and they forget it, and they understand it, and forget it. The scientific process is one of proposing a hypothesis for a particular way the world works. This can then be tested with the idea that the hypothesis can be falsified by experiments against its predictions. Karl Popper pointed out that this was an essential aspect of the scientific method. If the hypothesis passes its tests it becomes a theory - literally an idea that has survived some challenges and shown its value. Most people with a scientific background will tell you that a theory is a model of the world; that it can be superseded as Einstein's theory of gravity supersedes Newtons. So the idea that "We cannot know what the world is, but only what it is like." is familiar. But lying behind the scientific familiarity one often finds the notion that science reveals the truth about the world. It is easy to find a web of thinking throughout scientific history that says 'previous theories were wrong or incomplete. We now know the truth about the world.' And so this principle of the metaphysics of metaphor is known and forgotten.

The metaphysics of metaphor says that every description of the world is necessarily metaphoric. Take for example our understanding of electricity. This says something like "free electrons move through a conductive substrate in response to a repulsion to other electrons through electromagnetic force." (there are, of course, many and better ways to put a whole field of study into a single sentence). The scientific world view is that this description is a description of reality. That the world really is made of atoms with electrons that can flow, that experience and carry electromagnetic force. This view would point to all of the available evidence - electron micrographs that can 'see' individual atoms; the wealth of consistent scientific and engineering data. So much so that the idea that it might not be 'real' can seem as preposterous and irrational as a flat earth conspiracy. The metaphysics of metaphor takes a small but significant shift. It says that we can fundamentally never know (and neither can any super-intelligent alien or artificial intelligence) the nature of the world, but we can say with high precision "We live in a world that is like one composed of atoms with electrons in valance bands that can flow to give electricity."

What is the value of this? Is there a difference that makes a difference here? My answer, and the answer of the metaphysics of metaphor is 'Yes', the difference lies in the liberation or rational thinking from scientific objectivism. The results from the scientific method can no longer be though of as The Royal and Definitive Reality, yet neither are they stripped of their merit in some brutish attempt to discount objectivism. When the fundamental way to understand the world is "The best metaphor wins" a new dimension of careful rational thinking opens up. Scientific objectivism can only describe a membrane within the multi-dimensional realm of 'what the world is like'. To understand this is to open up other dimensions of thought in a renaissance-like explosion of high quality sense making.

Understanding the implications of the metaphysics of metaphor provides solutions to all classical paradoxes, brings a framework by which rational thinking is no longer at odds with art, religion or spirituality, and acts as a basis for thinking in relation to emergent and systemic phenomena.