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Hobbes's avatar

What are the implications of the idea that Nature is in fact, across all scales and all levels of phenomena, a unity?

Asked by Hobbes (7257 points ) July 22nd, 2011
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

30 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

We all came from stars.

thorninmud's avatar

That there is no large and small, no near and far;
No subject and object, no you and me;
No Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow;
That there is nowhere to go, nothing to acquire;
That every being is the whole, lacking nothing.

Coloma's avatar

What implications?

We are all, as is everything, part of the one grand design.

Same substance, just arranged a little differently in form. :-)

PhiNotPi's avatar

There shouldn’t be any. They way you view something doesn’t change what it is.

flutherother's avatar

Nature is not the same at all scales. As you go down into smaller scales you end up in the quantum world. At larger scales relativistic effects are important. It all knits together seamlessly which implies that our theories of the Universe are incomplete or just plain wrong.

marinelife's avatar

Would that everyone believed that and that man was a part of the whole. We would behave differently.

atlantis's avatar

It means that this world is a dream and reality has, for all pragmatic purposes, eluded us.

mazingerz88's avatar

There is much unity in everything yet not in every way when it comes to consciousness. The atoms of my consciousness are different from the Sun’s consciousness’ atoms. If I get near it enough I’ll be changed to say the least.

Hobbes's avatar

Your atoms may be different, and may change in proximity, but you are both made of the same fundamental substance.

ninjacolin's avatar

Solipsism.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@ninjacolin – I don’t follow, can you explain your reasoning?

The implications of nature being fractal (self-similar at every scale) are enormous – it would have implications for the entire gamut of enquiry – from the lower-order sciences of cosmology, quantum mechanics and mathematics to the higher-order sciences like biology and the applied sciences such as sociology and linguistics.

If nature really is self-similar, we should expect to be able to find these similarities as science progresses.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol, I was just offering an implication.. as I perceive it.

All of nature being a unity or a single event or a single thing..
Coupled with the fact that I exist and can’t determine anything to exist outside of what I am able to perceive as existing.. seems awfully solipsistic to me.

If it’s all one event, as far as I can tell, it all began at my first memory and will end at my death.. if ever that happens… but again, only as far as I can tell.

ETpro's avatar

Steering clear of solipsism, I think I agree more with the plebeian practicality of #=@PhiNotPi than the profound sound of @thorninmud‘s answer. I mean, I love what @thorninmud has to say, but wrap that up and take it to the bank, and see how many groceries you can buy with it.

ninjacolin's avatar

“Steering clear of solipsism” lol, good plan.

thorninmud's avatar

@ETpro For what it’s worth, I completely agree that the holistic view has no practical use. For usefulness, you can’t beat analysis and differentiation. Wholeness and difference are just two ways of seeing. Reality can’t be confined to either of these views. If you’re trying to get something done, then differentiation is the way to go. If you’re interested in what’s behind that world of difference, then the wholeness perspective is called for, impractical though it may be.

incendiary_dan's avatar

The continued existence of philosophy departments?

Hobbes's avatar

@ninjacolin – The thing about solipsism is that it requires a “You” separate from the rest of reality. I think one of the implications of the statement I made is that “You” are as much a part of the universe as the stars, and are in fact inseparable and, on the most fundamental of levels, indistinguishable from it.

ninjacolin's avatar

Not so sure about the requirement of separation. Why would they be separate?

Me = my perceptions.
My perceptions = the stars, the planets, yourself and everything else that “I” just so happen to believe exists. Quite the coincidence.

I agree about it all being indistinguishable.. I think that’s what makes my experience truly a solipsism.

Hobbes's avatar

I suppose the difference is that human beings only perceive a very narrow band of reality, both in terms of the information we absorb through our senses and in terms of our limitations as reference frames at specific points in space-time. This all exists beyond “your” perception, but you are an intrinsic part of it, you are it, and so any meaningful sense of “you” as an individual dissolves.

ETpro's avatar

@Hobbes My understanding of solipsism is it posits that “you” are all that can be proven to exist. Everything that you perceive may arise from within you alone, and there may be nothing else to be separate from you. While it can’t be disproven, it can be shown to yeild poor results in life practice.

ninjacolin's avatar

“This all exists beyond “your” perception” – This is a non-demonstrable claim.

On the contrary, the fact that you feel at all certain about making this claim quite indicates that it exists within “your” perception.

In my opinion, @ETpro has it right until this point: “it can be shown to yeild poor results in life practice.”

How can it be shown to yield poor results? In what context?

thorninmud's avatar

@Hobbes Perception is fundamentally a mental act of discrimination. It’s the brain isolating discreet phenomena from the entire body of being. That’s an important function; it’s the basis for science, technology and much that we value. As @ETpro says, it’s practical and useful.

Wholeness is, strictly speaking, not perceived. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s the ground of being from which perception emerges; being , in other words, unseparated into perceiver and perceived. I can’t see that wholeness, and neither can you, because at the level of wholeness there is no vantage point from which it can be seen. It is the primal state, what “things” are before they’re “things”.

This isn’t to say that our world of things/perceptions/phenomena isn’t valid. It’s not actually something other than wholeness. It’s just the way wholeness looks through the lens of perception.

While you can’t put wholeness to work for you, the realization that separation, fragmentation and alienation aren’t the final word is quite transformative.

LostInParadise's avatar

Our Universe of several billion years duration is winding down and will eventually either fall itself, creating a huge fireball and maybe start over again, or else fade away into nothing. There are two possibilities. Either our Universe is one time phenomenon, or it is just one of infinitely many universes spread out over time or as part of a multi-verse, with everything eventually repeating (truly nothing new under the Sun). The implication is that pondering deep philosophical questions can get kind of depressing and it is best to make the best of whatever time we have.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin Ha! I should have addressed that. I saw it coming. I tried it. That was the outcome I perceived. I have run across some sophmoric types who claim to be solid solipsists, and I have challenged them to test their theory by walking off the top of a building without falling, or stepping in front of a speeding bus, and passing right through it unscathed. None seem willing to take up that challenge. They know that while there is no logical proof that you are not all that exists, there are logical proofs that you truly are everything that exists. You could cut your hand off and since you are god and control the Universe, it could have no effect on you. You could even try something relative benign like sticking your hand in scalding water, or pushing a sewing needle through your lip. They never seem to be confident enough in their god-ship to take up that challenge… Or maybe I just project all that in my Universe that I make but can’t sontrol.

Hobbes's avatar

@thorninmud – You put it beautifully. I would however venture that there are a few ways to get in touch with that sense of wholeness, psychedelic drugs being one of them.

@ETpro – I don’t think “I can consciously control my perceptions, including pain” follows from “everything I perceive is a creation of my own mind”. There is a great deal happening in our minds that we have no conscious control over.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hobbes Yes. I think too of Dr Jill Bolte Taylor’s description of how her stroke disabled the discriminatory functions of her left hemisphere: “And I’m asking myself, “What is wrong with me? What is going on?” And in that moment, my brain chatter—my left hemisphere brain chatter—went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button. Total silence. And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.”

Because the boundaries that divide the whole up into “thinkable” chunks are projected by brain onto the whole, anything that turns off that projection also turns off the boundaries.

Hobbes's avatar

I’ve seen that, it’s a TED Talk She goes on to say that if people had some way to temporarily reach that state and come back it would be an incredible boon to humanity. I wanted to tell her that’s what psychedelic drugs do in high enough doses.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t have any personal experience with psychodelics, but I would believe they could do that.

I do think it’s important, though, not to be too seduced by oneness. As you said, there are many ways that one can come by an experience of the whole—meditative practices, chemicals, even strokes—and that experience does have great value, no question. The idea of oneness doesn’t change lives. Oneness has to be a gut-level experience to have transformative power.

That experience is wonderful, primarily because it brings such relief from all of our psychic distress related to isolation and incompleteness. But there is a certain danger of getting too enamored of that experience. This often happens when one has this experience with no context or discipline to give it perspective. It can seem to stand in stark contrast to the “ordinary” realm of experience, and be cherished as something special and more precious than ordinary experience (that’s the vibe I get from listening to Bolte Taylor talk).

But that is just as much of an imbalance as being stuck in discrimination. The needle has just swung to the other side of the dial. That’s a more pleasant state, to be sure, but it ignores some important aspects of human life, and so it’s delusive in its own way. Understanding this is just as difficult, and just as important, as getting that insight into oneness.

In the end, oneness and differentiation have to be integrated. They have to be seen as inseparable partners in reality. Then, differentiation is oneness, and oneness is differentiation. They don’t stand in opposition. It’s highly unlikely that a stiff dose of ‘shrooms will lead there.

atlantis's avatar

Kinda going off on a tangent, but this TED Talk may have an answer as to the implications of phenomenological unity.

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