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October 11, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

Quotes from Philosopher Keith Ward

“The material universe is perhaps more like an organism than like a repetitive machine. Whereas an older generation of scientists and philosophers thought the universe was like a watch, many now regard the universe as more like a large organism. It grows and develops, and its first stages can only be properly understood when its completely developed state is perceived.”
“A human embryo does not unexpectedly and accidentally become an adult person, and it can only be properly understood as a potential adult…On the organic view, this trajectory of development, of increasingly integrated complexity, producing new sorts of properties, and eventually the ability to comprehend and conciously shape the future of the universe, is implicit in the universe at the moment of the Big Bang or in whatever gives rise to that primordial explosion.”
“From this point of view, it is a basic mistake of reductive materialism to try to explain everything in terms of its simplest elements–as though a large enough group of such simple elements just had to be mixed up at random for a long time, and would then produce brains, thoughts, and the theory or relativity.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 83-84)

“The universe does not consist of discrete temporal slices, all isolated in their own little bubbles of time. Causal tracks and connections extend back and forth through time, and a present moment of consciousness can contain echoes of the past and premonitions or anticipations of the future. So we might see the universe not as a set of atomistic time-slices accidentally stuck together, but as one interconnected or entangled space-time whole. We do not see what objects are by seeing just one temporal slice of their existence. That would be like trying to understand a person by looking hard at them when they are asleep. We need to see them from beginning to end of their temporal existence and within the whole context in which they exist.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 84)

“It is consistent with modern quantum theory to regard the whole cosmos as a web of interacting energies, of spatially and temporally located powers. Each part is not, like Leibniz’s unfortunate monads isolated and closed in on itself. Each part is essentially open to the totality of the space-time nexus. Each receives stimuli from all the others that surrounds it, integrates those stimuli into a unity of being, and actively responds in accordance with its own specific powers. At the simplest level, for instance that of subatomic wave-particles, both stimuli and responses are more or less algorithmic–they behave in accordance with regular and largely predictable routines, described by basic forces of nature like electro-magmatism, gravity, and nuclear forces. Only in this way can they take form stable atoms upon which more complex unities can come to exist.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 100-101)

“Humans have private perspectives on, feelings for, and thoughts about, phenomena interpreted as expressions or mediations of external objects (including other persons). They express such feelings and thoughts in external ways, like language. But humans know that language or physical gesture may conceal inner thoughts or fail to state them adequately or be interpreted in many ways, some of them quite mistaken, by those who perceive only the observed expression. Thus each thought or feeling is known two ways–as expressed physically and as experienced internally.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 101)

“Even materialists have to admit, however, that according to quantum theory there can be alternative futures, and that we do not know the causal principles that select between them.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 97–this one is a bit out of context)

“Computers are very bad models for human beings, as they lack awareness, evaluation, and purpose, the very qualities that are distinctively personal.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 131)

“Most of us know that conscious experience adds properties–like beauty and pleasure–to the universe that otherwise would not exist.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 134)

“Without the capacity to feel, to evaluate, and to choose future goals, humans would not be morally responsible agents, worthy of respect and compassion, that most of us take them to be.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 156)

“The best hope of human happiness may lie in fulfilling our natures as human beings, as essentially related and interdependent and social agents. We are not machines that accumulate as many units of pleasure as possible, and who see other human machines as competing pleasure-units who are primarily useful to us as providers of our own pleasure.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 157)

“Humans are so bound together as social animals that good humour is infectious, and so is sorrow.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 160)

“Feelings differ enourmously in different people and are not separable from individual awareness, interpretation, and responsive action. We cannot sensibly aim at having feelings as discrete items isolated from the states or activities they are feelings about–that is the utilitarian mistake. Yet without feelings we would be automata, and it would be hard to giva nay value to human awareness or any purpose to human actions. Human life is largely concerned with the kinds of feelings we seek or avoid, with the activities that evoke or sustain them, and with the social relationship that enrich or destroy them.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 164)

“Human animals, supremely among all species on earth, are capable of abstract intellectual understanding and of delight in beauty and in artistic artefacts. They are able to be creative in their thoughts and actions, transforming their environment in new ways. They are able to empathize with the feelings of others, and to cooperate in learning and in action, so that they can share in the experience of others and work jointly with them to devise new cultural projects.”
“The capacities are not discrete and isolated from one another. They are intertwined, so that understanding and appreciation of beauty are creative acts that involve cooperation with others. They suggest an ideal for human personhood that consists, as Aristotle put it, in the unimpeded exercise of distinctively human capacities. To understand and appreciate fully, to act creatively, to be compassionate, and to cooperate with others–these are the virtues of a genuinely human life. Each human being is born into a unique situation and faces problems and possibilities never shared in detailed with anyone else. Never the less, there are goals for human life as such, and in every historically particular situation the mind can be disciplined to love those excellences that are distinctive to human personhood.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 166-167)

“The goal is founded upon the distinctive capacities of human nature, which characterize what is rationally good and desirable for a being with such capacities, and what is bad or diminishing and is to be avoided. This moral ideal is concerned with feelings, but feelings considered as integrated with social and personal activities, with knowledge and understanding, and with rational evaluations of envisaged states and acts…They give human lives a sense of value and a sense of purpose (to realize objective values), which is perhaps the most important and distinctive feature of being human.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 169)

“So far so good (except Decarte did not himself believe the Cartesian myth). But humans are also essentially morally responsible agents, capable of pursuing goodness for its own sake and of shaping both the world and their own characters in light of their moral ideals–or, more often, failing to do so. They have a rich inner life, in which understanding, feeling, evaluation, and intention play a major role, a life and quality of experience which is not open to others to inspect.”
“This inner life is known by introspection, by a form of self-examination which inspects a person’s feelings, beliefs, evaluations, and motives without the use of the senses. Introspection is non-sensory knowledge of one’s own states of mind, and it is an important part of coming to know if and to what extent and in what ways one is pursing a life which is wholly good.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 174-175)

“The ability to known oneself fully and to direct one’s own actions freely to a personally chosen goal in positive cooperation with others is what defines a fully human life. That ability is rarely exercised to any great extent, and it remains for most of us a distant ideal rather than an actual achievement.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 181)

“This is after all philosophy and not chemistry. But we can scarcely escape having some such view, and idealism will always continue to be one of the most intellectually impressive high points among human attempts to achieve real insight into the nature of the complex and mysterious reality of which we humans are part.”
“The point of his discussion has been to emphasize that we all have privileged, though not infallible or complete, access to our own inner lives, our thoughts, memories, feelings, and intentions. This fact gives us very important information about the world–namely, the conscious experiences and intentional actions are real, not reducible to materially and publically observable facts, and morally crucial for the way we live.”
(Keith Ward, More than Matter, p. 182-183)

You can learn more about Keith Ward, the Philosopher here.

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