Ep. 22 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Descartes vs. Hobbes | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 22 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Descartes vs. Hobbes".


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Intro (00:00)

Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. Last time we took a look at Martin Luther and the deep impact in our cultural grammar made by the Protestant Reformation. And we talked about things like cultural training for narcissism, sapiential obsolescence, the division of church and state which furthers secularism and the rise of the Protestant work ethic and how that's how that integrated with emergent corporate capitalism.

Discussion On Philosophy And Rationality

Martin Luther (00:27)

That we then took a look at some initial responses by Pascal to this change and the loss of the cosmos and being replaced by the infinite spaces that terrify. We looked at an individual who tried to respond to that a brilliant genius from the heart of the scientific revolution and that's Renee Descartes. He creates a new psychotechnology, the psychotechnology that is at the core of the scientific enterprises understood today and that's Cartesian graphing and the whole proposal is that we can render everything into equations and that if we mathematically manipulate those abstract symbolic propositions we can compute reality and that Descartes saw in that a method for how we could achieve certainty and that he understood the anxiety of his time as being provoked by a lack of certainty and the search for it and this method of making the mind computational in nature would alleviate the anxiety that was prevalent at the time. And so I noted that we had two different elements in our grammar that are in significant tension with each other and they both share, that's what's so interesting about them, they share, they overlap significantly in the idea of the isolated individual mind whereas Luther is going to put an emphasis on conscience, Descartes is going to put an emphasis as we'll see, we began to see last time and we will now call consciousness although of course these two words are highly related in nature but on one side we have the grammar from Luther telling us that we need to accept without question, without evidence, without argumentation and then Descartes is we should only accept that when we have certainty and neither one of those is viable for us, they're both pathological in a very deep way but we saw that Descartes nevertheless proposes this new method, a method again, it's similar in so many ways to essential features of the Protestant Reformation, a method cut off from tradition, a method cut off from institution, a method that relies just on the individual mind and relationship to itself. So although in one sense these two grammars, the Luther and grammar and the Cartesian grammar seem so opposed in our culture and these grammars are at war in our current culture war, the war between an idea, an understanding of faith as a radical acceptance and knowledge as the pursuit of logically derived certainty, although they are at that that grammatical tension is at the core of a lot of our culture wars, nevertheless these two views are so deeply bound together because of their mutual influence and their shared commitment to the isolated individual self. Descartes has a couple of contemporaries, as I mentioned Pascal will come back to Pascal in a bit but we also talked about Hobbes, and Hobbes comes up with the radical proposal that following on Descartes, if cognition is computation and if matter is real then we can build a material computer and we could artificially make cognition.

John Locke & Victor Frankenstein (03:48)

Artificial intelligence is a product of the scientific revolution and is part and parcel of the advent of the meaning crisis in modernity. Now what I want to do is take some time to look at these two interactions that I've mentioned, draw them out a bit, we have Descartes versus Hobbes and then we have Descartes and Pascal, what we can learn from these interactions because they're pivotal and we're now going to remind ourselves that the idea of artificial intelligence is deeply relevant to both the scientific revolution and the meaning crisis. I've shown you how it's relevant to the scientific revolution and I pointed out last time that it is deeply relevant to the meaning crisis because Hobbes with the proposal of artificial intelligence proposes to finish the swath of death that has been created by Galileo killing the universe for example and what Hobbes is doing is killing the human soul and of course that's going to exacerbate the cultural narcissism because if we no longer have souls then finding our uniqueness and our true self, the self that we're going to be true to becomes extremely paradoxical and problematic. If you don't have a soul what is it to be true to your true self and what is it that makes you utterly unique and special from the rest of the purposeless meaningless cosmos?

Counterfeiting truth (06:04)

So these are going to be crucial questions. Now I want to take a look at how Descartes responds to Hobbes because that's going to make clear to us again both the scientific import and the existential relevance of the AI project and it'll also make clear deeper problems that we are now facing in the meaning crisis. All right now here's where it's important to make clear how we should treat Descartes. So it's very fashionable philosophically and cognitive scientifically to blame Descartes for many many mistakes. There's a famous book by DiMazio, a book that in other respects I think very highly of Descartes' error, right, and we'll talk about all this stuff later. However I mean if I were to put it in a sentence I wish I had made Descartes' mistakes. Descartes is titanically brilliant and the mistakes he makes are so foundational to our culture. So woven into our cultural grammar that overcoming them is not going to be an easy task. Why I say this is because I want to look at how Descartes actually rejects Hobbes' proposal of artificial intelligence and why that rejection is still scientifically philosophically relevant to us today but how it makes our existence problematic. What I want to say is there is often a claim made that Descartes rejects Hobbes' materialism because Descartes is Catholic and that his motivation is religious and then there is the innuendo that Descartes is actually operating, sorry for this pun, in bad faith he's merely trying to preserve his religious beliefs. I think this completely misrepresents and is a disservice to Descartes' intellectual integrity. Descartes does not respond to Hobbes out of his religious faith. Descartes responds to Hobbes out of the fundamental machinery and central claims of the scientific revolution and I want to take a look at that because I want to show you how problematic our worldview is becoming and has become. So Hobbes proposes basically this idea of artificial intelligence. Descartes says that that's wrong and he has a series of arguments against Hobbes that are very telling and what Descartes basically does is argue about the central claims that are being made by the scientific revolution. The central claims that are being made are claims that matter is real and reality is mathematically measured and that the meaning and value of things is not in the things themselves. So let's go through this very carefully. Descartes says, well Hobbes if you're making an argument, if you're engaging in reasoning as opposed to just computation, you actually care, you have a goal, you're held to a standard of truth because whatever I'm doing when I'm reasoning, I'm working towards the goal of truth which means I'm acting on purpose. And secondly truth depends on meaning. If I ask you is the following claim true, true, nik nik nik bik bakakak, is that true? You presumably can't tell me if it's true or false because you first need to know what I just meant. Truth depends on meaning. So reasoning acts on purpose, it acts in terms of meaning and it cares about standards or goals. It works according to a normative standard of how we ought to behave. Okay, notice this, this is at the heart of reasoning. This goes centrally to a lot of useless time I would say, I'm just going to be somewhat harsh here, but a lot of useless time in the current culture wars of discussions of rationality. I actually, a scientist who scientifically studies rationality in human reasoning and it is often surprising to me how little of the science of rationality advocates of rationality make use of.

Rationality and the left/right Mind War (11:16)

How difficult, and this is what I'm going to show you, it is to integrate notions of rationality with a scientific materialism. I'm not anti-materialistic, that's not what I'm doing here. I'm trying to show you that people who advocate a model of rationality that is ultimately Cartesian, that rationality is about behaving purely logically in an attempt to get certainty in our truths. Sam Harris for example comes to mind, are not paying attention to the criticisms of that model made by the very self-same day cart. Do not advocate one side of a phenomena without paying attention to central criticisms made about it by its progenitor. Because what's Descartes saying to Hobbes? He's saying, well look, look what's central to reasoning, normativity, how things ought to be, meaning, and purpose, and Hobbes, and I'm going to act on Descartes's behalf here. I can do this, I think, in all integrity and legitimacy, because we have Hobbes's letters to Descartes's response, and Descartes's response are often contemptuous. So you can almost hear Descartes saying Hobbes, you idiot, you can't have a material reasoner. Because what is the scientific revolution saying about matter? It's saying that matter is inert, it has no purpose, right? There is no meaning in matter. We've been doubting that since Occam's razor, remember what it actually cuts? And it acts in terms of ought to be, not how things are. No, science doesn't act in terms of how things ought to be. It acts only in describing and explaining how things actually are. It has no values. So science is teaching us that the world is purposeless, matter is meaningless. There's no normative standard or structure in matter. It's just actually how it is, and how it actually is, is valueless. So Hobbes, matter, lacks, meaning, purpose, normativity, it's inert. How could you possibly get all of those things out of matter? How could you? If you're a reasoner, you care about the truth. And yet truth depends on meaning, purpose, at least the pursuit of truth, and normative standards of how things ought to be. And none of those are in matter. Well, Hobbes responds and says, well, you know what it's like, what I can have is I can have little, I have like my abacus and it's automated and I have little pieces of paper on them, and right, the pieces of paper are manipulated much like the letters on your computer screen. And if they're manipulated in the right way, I get a meaningful sentence, the cat is on the mat. And then Descartes says, Hobbes, you're being an idiot because you're making a fundamental mistake here.

Has objective existence and truth, as Endrescart (15:47)

First of all, your English, I'm French, I don't have this, I have this. Physically, these are two very different things. Yet we're both thinking about the same mia, miao creature. There's no meaning, there's no intrinsic meaning in these material marks. If waves on a shore happen to scratch the pebbles, right, so that this word appears on the beach, would you think the ocean is talking to you? That'd be ridiculous. It's just random grooves cut in the sand by the water. It has no intrinsic meaning. These things only have meaning because they are associated with ideas in your mind and those ideas actually possess meaning. See, do you see what Descartes saying? He's saying, look, you have a view of matter that makes the rationality that you're holding out to be so central, actually deeply, deeply problematic. See, this is what we need to pay attention to when we invoke rationality as a standard. Of course, we should invoke rationality as a standard. But first of all, two things we should note. The idea that rationality is just the logical manipulation of propositions is something we should question because I've shown you already already, that's not historically accurate. That's a particular view that we see from Descartes. Secondly, Descartes himself rejects that because he realizes that rationality is caring about the truth on purpose according to normative standards and values. And none of that machinery can actually be found in the scientific model of matter.

Enlightenment (17:35)

So, you know what is actually deeply mysterious in our culture right now, although it is invoked religiously, and I mean that, is exactly the notion of rationality itself. This is not me advocating irrationality, not at all. I am against the advocation of it as if it is a philosophically unproblematic phenomena. That is irresponsible and seriously misleading. Okay. Is that it? No. There's more Descartes going to say more. In order to say that, we need to go back to Galileo. What more does Descartes say to Hobbes? What more does Descartes say to Hobbes? Hobbes says, well look, Galileo had this problem, right, and we've talked about it, but let's go over it again. Mathematics is the language of reality, ultimately a platonic idea. And then you get the idea that there are two kinds of properties. There are the properties that are measurable by math. Those are the primary properties. The primary qualities. The ones that are mathematically measurable, and although the term isn't quite used this way in Descartes time, shortly thereafter it's going to come to take on this meaning, the mathematical properties are properties that are in the object regardless of whether or not anybody is paying attention to them, looking at them, involved with them. So if I can measure it mathematically, it's in the object. It's objective. But of course Galileo faced the fact that many qualities of experience, and notice how this is part and parcel of this whole scientific revolution, and the calling into question of experience. Galileo noted that many qualities are not mathematically describable. How beautiful something is. Right, how sweet the honey tastes. How wonderful the rose smells. And then he has an important idea here. These were called secondary qualities. And the idea here is, and notice how this follows on Perkernicus, these don't exist in the object. They only exist in my mind. They're part of that veil that the experience places between me and the world.

Qualia (20:32)

They're part of the way in which my mind doesn't touch the world. These are purely subjective qualities purely in the subject. Object, thrown against, thrown against, object, thrown against because matter resists me. Subjective, I can throw it under me. I can dominate it. Now, notice what Descartes saying. Descartes is going to pick up on this. Philosophers have a nice way of talking about these secondary qualities. They have invented this term called qualia. That's plural, the secondary qualities. And the idea here is they're purely subjective. They exist only in the mind. And that these make up an important part. And there's all kinds of debate about this. I'm not going to try and resolve that here. But somehow these qualia are central to consciousness. They're part of the fabric and/or the content or the nature of consciousness. Remember why I said that Descartes is emphasizing consciousness. Now, here's the idea. What the scientific revolution showed, one of its big insights is this is in the world in matter and this is not in the world. It is only in mind. And then what you can say to Hobbes is the following. And many philosophers have said it repeatedly, Thomas Nagel comes to mind and many others. Matter does not possess these properties. The qualia consciousness. Therefore, there's no way to manipulate matter to generate qualia consciousness. That's really, really devastating. Because it brings with it the possibility that the AI not only will the AI not have meaning, not have purpose, not have any normative values, the AI will also not have any conscious awareness of its cognition. It will not possess consciousness.

Imperialism (23:09)

Now Descartes brings in one other important aspect to this, which isn't quite as explicit, but it's very quickly derived from other people around him. See, what does this happen in Descartes, right? By the time of Descartes, we've seen this slow withdrawal. Everything is withdrawing from the world into the mind. The mind is getting isolated, trapped inside of itself. And then Descartes famously worries about that. He says, "I want to doubt everything. Try to find something I cannot doubt." He makes, to my mind, other people have said this, this isn't original to me, but I think it's important. He makes a mistake about this notion of certainty. There's two notions of certainty. There's a logical notion and a psychological notion. The logical notion of certainty is something like absolute deductive validity. It's impossible for the premises to be true, impossible, and the conclusion falls. That's different from psychological certainty. Psychological certainty is an inability to doubt. So you find something certain because you are incapable of doubting it. The problem is these are not identical by any means. Think of the radical bigot. The radical bigot, I am not, I hope, such a person, but the radical bigot cannot doubt certain things. They cannot doubt the superiority of the white race or some other such garbage. They're psychologically incapable of doubting it precisely because of the depth of their ignorance and bigotry. So they have psychological certainty, but it is certainly not logical certainty. There is no direct connection between psychological certainty and logical certainty. But what Descartes does is he thinks that if he pushes this far enough, it will somehow become identical to this. And it never does. And that's part of the problem we face. Because he realizes to be honest, I mean, so what he does is he says, I'll doubt everything I can possibly doubt. And then he even doubts the math because he realizes that his commitment to math is still ultimately based on an aspect of psychological certainty. Because there could be some evil genius, perhaps like the matrix, who's actually programming his brain unbeknownst to him to make him believe in the axioms of math. And before you say that's ridiculous, come to realize how much modern physics has rejected the axioms of Euclidean geometry, even though they were once taken to be absolutely unquestionable. So why am I saying all of this? Because what Descartes comes to, the point where the point that he thinks he finds that connects these two together is he cannot doubt that he exists. But because in order to be subject to illusion, his mind must exist. So even the most comprehensive set of illusions guarantees to him the existence of his mind.

Philosophy (26:26)

This is the famous Coghito Ergo-Som. I think, therefore, I am. It's not an argument. There's no argument there. I think, therefore, I am. There's no, that's not a logical argument. It's not a logical argument. It's a statement that of where psychological certainty becomes indistinguishable from logical certainty. Because the idea is, in order to be suffering from an illusion, I must exist. Notice what's happening. We used to have the mind in touch with the world. Then the mind is at least in touch with the math. And now all we have left is this. All that the mind actually touches is itself. That's what consciousness is. And notice how weird consciousness is like that. When I tell you, how do you know, if I ask you, how do you know the cups there?


You'll say, well, I see it, I interact with it. If I ask you, how do you know you're conscious? You just say, I know I'm conscious by being conscious. What does this mean with Hobbes? Well, Descartes is saying that aspect, that's the touchstone of reality. The mind touching itself, Hobbes, is nothing that matter has. Matter doesn't have, because what the scientific revolution did was take all of that contact out of the world. And it took it, I'm even willing to say it's not even in the math. It's just here. So these are devastating problems. I would put it this way. If you are an advocate, and you should pay very serious attention to artificial intelligence, because I'm trying to show you, not only is it going to change the world socioeconomically, politically, culturally, trying to show you it's going to change your understanding of who and what you are, and it is going to interact with the meaning crisis in profound ways. But if you're interested in this, and if you are doing something work on it, and some of the scientific theoretical work I do is an attempt to contribute towards the development of AI, you need to pay attention to a distinction, a distinction that was made famous by John Searle between weak and strong AI. I don't like those terms, because weak AI implies something defective, because we never use the word weak as a compliment. What do I say that? Because weak AI is the project of just making machines that can do things for us that typically intelligent animals or human beings could do. Your laptop computer is weak AI. And there is nothing weak about this in a social or value sense. It is a legitimate and real pursuit that computer revolution has transformed the world. There is nothing deficient or defective of people who want to make weak AI. You depend on weak AI. We carry around these Star Trek computers in our phone, and we go to automatic banking machine. All of this has profoundly altered our lives. So when I use this word, I am not using it in a pejorative sense. Perhaps Searle was, I don't know, but I'm not. But here is what is of value in Searle's distinction between weak and strong AI. Weak AI does not really advance our scientific understanding in the following way. And this is a way that matters. This is how you would secede at strong AI. And when I say it, it should show you how difficult strong AI is. A lot of people now talk use this term, artificial general intelligence, to talk about strong AI. What is strong AI? Strong AI is to make a computer that not does just some intelligent things or models what it's like, but is actually an instance of mine. It's to succeed in Hobbes's project. It is to make a mind. But to succeed in Hobbes's project requires you do the following. If I'm actually making a material mind, how do I know I've really succeeded? If when I make this, I can give an answer. If I can give an explanation of how Descartes is wrong. If I can answer all of Descartes' objections in an explanatory fashion. Not just yelling at him, Descartes, Searle, Searle, Searle. But I build a machine and then I can say, look, given how the machine is built and operate, here is my scientific explanation for how you can get purpose, meaning, normativity, consciousness, and that contact with realness that Descartes talked about. That's strong AI and that's a lot harder. That's why people who are invested in that project are a lot more cautious about predicting when we will have AGI. The fact that computational machines are going to change our society in the next 10 to 20 years is undeniable. You're just some sort of intellectual light idea if you try to resist that. But the idea that that immediately translates into a profound understanding of the nature of the mind is a second question.

Are we conscious? (32:22)

The people I respect, the people I think are doing the best work in strong AI, people pursuing AGI, are a lot more cautious about whether or not we're going to be able to answer Descartes and show in a deeply explanatory evidence-based way how Hobbes is right. So, we are still with that problem now. I work in cognitive science. We're still at that problem. We're still resting with this problem right now. And there are many people on both sides of this issue. I do not want to misrepresent one side. I mean, most people in the professional business think that Hobbes is ultimately right. They take seriously Descartes' challenge if they're good scientists, and most of them are. There are many, it's a minority, but it's not a small minority, there are many of these scientists who think that Descartes might be fundamentally right. Okay, so this is still very much an open and important question. That goes to the core of us. Now, you may think, some of you, perhaps also if you have a religious orientation, and I'm not insulting you here, I am not insulting you, because you might think, well, Hobbes tries to kill the soul, and these arguments from Descartes, they sort of preserve the notion of a soul, and that's great. Because if I have a soul, then of course, then immortality is a real possibility for me. Well, be careful. You may not want the Cartesian baby, okay, even though you're trying to throw out the materialistic bathwater. Because the problem with Descartes' solution is its existential cost. It's existential cost. Because what Descartes was basically arguing for is that mind and matter are essentially different. They share no fundamental properties. Mind moves on purpose. It moves according to values. It works in terms of meaning and qualia. It cares about and pursues the truth, and it has this kind of contact with itself that no material thing has. Whereas matter is extended in space and time, displays force, transfers energy. So all the properties that mind has matter doesn't have, and all the properties that matter has, mind doesn't have.

Descartes V Hobbes (part 1) (35:22)

So Descartes, of course, came to a plausible conclusion that mind and matter are two radically different kinds of things. Mind is a completely immaterial substance, matter, of course, is a completely material substance. And you may say, "Yay, here's the problem. If mind and matter share no properties, how do they causally interact?" How do they causally interact? Here, I'm going to show you mind over matter. I'm thirsty. I desire water because water is good. So I'm going to move on purpose. So notice all these mental terms, desire and want, and I value the water, and I'm going to move on purpose. And here I do. I move and I get some water. That's mind making matter change. But how can it do that? Mind has no energy. Doesn't take up space. Right? Doesn't have any force. What about the reverse? Can matter ever cause mind? Here we go. Behold, I'm going to start with a completely material event, and it's going to end up in a completely mental event. Ow. Two pieces of matter slam into each other, and the end result is pain. What's pain? Well, it's a qualia. It's a qualia about the value of your experience. How much does pain weigh? Does it even make sense of, what color is it? What's its electromagnetic radiation? What's its chemical structure? So look, your experience is moment to moment. Mind and matter are intimately interacting in a bidirectional matter. Mind and matter. Intimately, continuously doing this, and yet Descartes whole position, the way he responds to Hobbes, makes it impossible that they can interact because they share no properties in virtue of which they can interact. Because he used that gap to argue against Hobbes, because it's the gap between matter, scientific matter, and mind that Descartes uses against Hobbes. But the problem is that gap undermines your whole existence. Because what does it mean? It means you are radically cut off from yourself. Your relationship between your mind and your body is a complete and utter mystery. The most intimate aspects of your experience, the taste of this water is absurd, because there's no way that the taste, which is a mental thing, and the water, which is a physical thing, could in any way be related to each other. But it's worse. Because look around you, there's another person. How do you know what's going on in their mind?

Post-Enlightenment Cartesian Concepts

Jesus is rebooted (38:38)

Do you directly see their mind? Of course not. Well, how do I know? Are they utter words? Well, no, they don't. They make sounds. And we talked about, remember, what Descartes says to Hobbes. There's nothing in the sounds that's meaningful. Their face moves, and they make gestures, and they express their emotions. So what you're saying is you get what's going on in somebody's mind because of the way their physical body moves and makes other physical things like air move. But if there is no connection between mind and matter, and your body is a purely material thing, and I hope you don't disagree with that, then there's no way by paying attention to body, I can figure out what's going on in mind, because there's no connection between them. This is called the problem of other minds. How do I know, and Descartes seriously worried about this, how do I know that the rest of you are not just mindless automatons? Not just zombies. How do I know this? Because the only mind that my mind touches according to Descartes is itself. Well, at least the mind is still in contact with the world with Descartes, right, John? Because the math touches the world. Aha, be careful there. Descartes given us two different answers. He said, the math tells us what's real, and it's objective, but the mind touching itself in consciousness is ultimately the touchstone, and I use that touchstone of reality. It's purely subjective. And so what we have are these two different standards of realness, subjective consciousness, objective math, and so what our society, our culture has now done historically, is careen back and forth between them.

A Cartesian collapse of order and rigor (40:36)

You get the empiricist and the positivist, right? No, science tells me what's real, and then all you say, well, how do you know it's not a dream? Oh, well, silly, silly, silly. Nobody really pays any attention of that. And what you get are insults. You get insults and add hominem arguments. It's like, well, no, no, answer. Oh, well, you know, and then we invoke rationality. And what do you mean by rationality? And how does rationality fit into this mathematically realized world when we don't have any mathematical material way of talking about purpose and truth, etc. It's very problematic. So you swing the other way, and you come over here and you're the romantics. I don't mean the rock group, and I don't mean like romantic love, right? We'll talk about these guys in a bit, right? So what's ultimately real is my pure subjective experience, right? But then the problem with that is, well, how is that to be in touch with the world? How is that to be in touch with other people? How is that to be in touch with reality at all? That at least me totally disconnected. This, how would I know it's not just all the dream? And so I go back and forth and back and forth. So what Descartes actually gave us wasn't a secure way of being in contact with reality.

Cooking history- Cartesian stupidity and science nihilism (42:11)

He gives us a completely unstable grammar of realness. And our culture is driven by these two demands, and we swing back and forth between a subjective and an objective account of realness. As we swing back and forth between attempts to understand the relationship between mind and body and between mind and mind. So notice what we have here. We have a loss of perspectival and participatory knowing. We've seen a gradual loss of contact with the world, a loss of contact with tradition and history, loss of contact with our own bodies, loss of contact with other people, other minds, loss of contact with reality. And then you say, well at least Descartes gives me contact with my own mind. At least I have that. I have my little tiny Cartesian Lutheran island and at least that's where I can make my last stand. Well do you? Because you have to be really consistent. If you're going to be Cartesian and logical, you have to be consistent. And here's the problem. You can't invoke historical, cultural notions of the self. See when Descartes says, "Cogito ergo sump," and he says, and you may say, well therefore I know that I exist.

Medieval unity. High modernism problem vs. meaning crisis (43:54)

Well what's this I that exists? Is it all of John Verveki? Right? Because it can't, first of all it can't be anything I introspect because a lot of my introspection is false or wrong. Is it based on my memories? Well my memory is certainly capable of making all kinds of mistakes. It always does in fact. Well what about my history? Well what access do I have to my history? And how do I measure that history mathematically? My memory is certainly not trustworthy and according to standards of certainty. And I don't have any mathematical way of gaining access to my past. All that you have contact with is this moment of self-awareness right now. Isolated atomic moment. Now take that completely isolated, contentless, having no autobiography, no contact with its body, no contact with the world, no contact with other minds, and then place it inside Pascal's infinite spaces that terrify. That completely atomic empty self, adrift in empty infinite spaces of terror and that's what you get. That's where you are. If you think through things carefully, according to the fractured, tortured tensions of our current cultural grammar. That's how you get into the meaning crisis. Now Pascal was aware of this and like I said, he is as great a mathematical genius as Descartes. He on his own rediscover from axioms forward recreates all of Euclidean geometry as an adolescent on his own. He says, brilliant. He's part of the scientific revolution. He invents the barometer as a way of measuring air pressure. But he has a transformative experience. We talked about those and they convince him that what Descartes is trying to achieve the certainty is not possible and that the meaning crisis is powerful. Pascal makes a distinction with what he calls the spirit of geometry. You have to think of that in Cartesian terms. I would say today the spirit of math or the spirit of computation. He calls the spirit of finesse. His fear, his concern is that we have lost this and we have come to think of all of knowing and being in terms of the spirit of geometry. And this is a theme, this Pascal theme, as you've been seeing it running through this history. We have slowly lost procedural knowledge, the importance of procedural knowledge, knowing how to do things. We've lost perspectival knowing, knowing what it's like and we've lost participatory knowing, knowing that is part and parcel of how we are bound up with something else, someone else in a process of mutual transformation, reciprocal revelation. Because that's what finesse is, to do something with finesse. If I'm doing a move in Tai Chi and I do it with finesse, it's like jazz.

Science andsetState Augmentation (48:02)

There's an element in there that I can't capture in terms of mathematical propositions. It's knowing how, in terms of knowing the right timing, the right placement, when you're kissing someone else, you have to do it with finesse. The right timing, the right placement, the sensitivity to the content, knowing what it is like to be you, knowing what it is like to be the other person. And then getting those two perspectives to have a participatory relation, to be in a relation of mutual revelation with each other. That's what's necessary to kissing someone well.

Pascals Pangrapizations Going Forward (48:53)

And so Pascal is pointing out that what has been lost in the scientific revolution is all these other kinds of knowing and being. And these are the kinds of knowing and being that he found present in the transformative experience that he had. It was for him a religious experience, but we've seen that these transformative experiences are not necessarily religious, they're always spiritual, but they're not always, I should be careful, they're not always things that reinforce established religious beliefs or propositions. Sometimes they challenge the beliefs that the person has had as we've seen. Sometimes they lead to anti-religious or at least non-religious propositions.

Present Day Issues

The Problem Facing Us Now (49:41)

Nevertheless, Pascal is onto something to my mind when he argues that the loss of the spirit of finesse has left us bereft of the capacity for transformative truth, transformative knowing. And so we're now stuck where Socrates was at the beginning of the actual revolution.

The Impact Of Lost Community Meaning

The Loss of Community Deserve Meaning (49:58)

We have scientific knowledge, but remember Socrates rejected it because although it was rigorous and even plausibly true, it did not afford transformation, self-transcendence into wisdom. But of course, all that self-transcendence is gone because now I don't believe in self-transcendence because of the Protestant Reformation. And I don't have to go through personal transformation, according to Descartes. Look at what Descartes is saying. You do not have to be transformed in order to come into contact with ultimate reality. All you have to do is use the right method, do the right computation. So all of this part of the axial revolution is being lost. That's what Pascal is putting his finger on. And he's doing it extremely well. So what I want to do next is to follow up a little bit more on Descartes and take a look at Kant and the rise of the pseudo-religious ideologies and the main problem facing us in the West today. We face these undeniable, at least if we're being rational, crises, environmental, economic, socio-political, cultural wars. We need deep fundamental transformation, transformations of cognition, consciousness, culture, community. But we have lost the psychotechnologies, the spirit of finesse, the traditions and the institutions for affording that. Because the thing that used to do that was religion. But we've lost religion. And as I'm going to show you next time, we tried secular pseudo-religious alternatives and they drenched the world in blood. Thank you very much for your time and attention.

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