Saturday, 4 May 2013

Is every synthesis a higher viewpoint?

Maria Arul Anthuvan wrote: With regard to "higher viewpoint", I had mistaken it with the "higher synthesis" of Lonergan's description of cosmopolis in IN: "higher synthesis of the liberal thesis and the Marxist antithesis." [Insight CWL 3:266.]

My reply:

higher viewpoint: a very technical term in L. yes, i am myself not sure whether the higher synthesis of the two would be a higher viewpoint.
this much i am sure: not every advance in knowledge, not every new insight or set of insights, qualifies as a higher viewpoint.
when first defined, the HV is: a new set of rules that integrates the old rules and yet goes beyond. Thus the simple rules for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and squares get into trouble when negative numbers, fractions, and surds appear. how to add +1 and -1, for example? and how to multiply them? and divide them? and what would be the square root of -1? we need to expand the old rules, and the new rules, when they are found, will have to do the work of the old, plus face the new situations. the new rules constitute the higher viewpoint.

in the biological area the case is somewhat more difficult to understand. See ch. 4, probably on the matter. when there is a set of events that is merely coincidental on a particular level, say the biological level of cells, there can arise, within this merely coincidental set of events, new schemes of recurrence. When they do, we have evidence for a higher genus, which is equivalent to the higher viewpoint. This new genus does not abolish the lower genus. the cells will continue to function; but now there is a higher unity, perhaps a multi-cellular organism. the fact that we say organism indicates a higher unity (though you must be careful to understand that any organism is not just one scheme of recurrence, not even just many schemes of recurrence, but a 'crossroads' of a number of schemes of recurrence, and that too at many levels).

in the human area, the most interesting is the intellectual. here the 'stuff' of progress is ideas, if you wish. and the higher viewpoints are in the realm of ideas. thus algebra, which is a higher viewpoint to arithmetic. and Einstein's theory, which is definitely a higher viewpoint to that of Newton. but still I cannot say for certain about the case you mentioned. will have to be read carefully.

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