Essay 01 - Consilience

 7 September 2000 


I am a child of the mind. I was raised by both of my parents, for as long as I can remember, to think for myself and try to understand the world around me. This is perhaps because both of these parents spent so many years in academic institutions, or perhaps simply because we live 'in a scientific age'. In any case, it has resulted in a very powerful belief in the constant nature of the world that we live in and in our ability over time to understand it- so long as it holds that constancy.

Hearing Professor Nelson speak about what Wilson considers the patterns of thought necessary for consilience, I realized that for the most part I follow them. Despite the fact that I've always tried to think according to them, this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Somewhere deep inside of me, something does not want to let go of the mystery of the world.

Right now, I am perhaps both a materialist and something else, as impossible as that might sound. Our world exists independent of our observation, and it isn't going to change so far as I can tell, but I cannot let go of the possibility that something set it all in motion which can pick our universe up and set it sideways at any time. Probably because I'd love to be alive during that sort of change. Apart from that small hope, however, I am certainly a materialist and empiricist.

I am not, however, ready to accept the idea that everything can be known from the basic laws of the universe, once we discover them and follow them up as far as they take us. By the end of this course I may agree, but for now I think that there are not only things that we do not know, but also some things that we cannot know with the certainty that Wilson speaks of.

The Enlightenment thinkers had the right idea. Given the nature of our world, we should do our best to understand it and make use of that understanding. Wilson expands on that idea and claims that in bringing that knowledge together, our lives will be greatly improved, just as they have been in the gaining of that knowledge. I say that if in following their path we can eventually know even ourselves, and eventually everything, all the better. The jury, however, is still up on that, and until then I'd like to bask a little in the mystery of our world. It may, as cosmic time goes, be short lived.


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and are copyright (c) 2000 John W. McCormick IV