That's right, here it is.
E.F. Schumacher, a modern world economist, believes in the map of life. It is an instrument that can identify any object or idea you will encounter in your life. Each human’s map should have a safe, reliable path through any of life’s difficult problems, so the theory goes. But if the map itself is incorrect, then there is no way to safely move forward. In A Guide for the Perplexed, Schumacher wants to help modern day humans fix their maps to include a vertical dimension including landmarks and symbols outside of the field of science that our current maps lack. Once attained, then we can safely and accurately trek the countryside of life.
I noticed two distinct writing styles in Schumacher’s Guide: chapters of elaborate definitions regarding ontology and epistemology, and chapters when his economist creativity shines in the “Adaequatio” sections and “Two Types of Problems”. In the latter, he connects historic philosophies and metaphors with current human issues as easily as he may analyze the productivity of a corporation. In this dichotomy, Schumacher offers brick and mortar to readers such as myself in order for us to build a foundation and begin ascension into his well-defined vertical level. His overarching goal flows from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ belief that “The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.” (Schumacher 3). He is an engineer and I accept many of his blueprints for living my life to the maximum human potential.
My first instinct is to apply Schumacher’s ideas to the ever-important idea of entities greater than humans. I must tangle with the perfect being before I consider the human being. Schumacher’s talks about powers each that ontological level has. Plants, (m + x) have no sense of time, but many animals (m + x + y) have memories and learn from past mistakes. Humans (m + x + y + z) can anticipate future actions and events with some clarity. There is also the level of interaction with the world that matures from stimulus to instinct, and finally the z attribute of will, “that is the power to move and act even when there is no physical compulsion, no physical stimulus, and no motivating force actually present.” (Schumacher 28). To add another level, I extend Schumacher’s equation: m + x + y + z + Ω = god.
The Ω level is an absolute awareness, not just in the self, but also in the immensity of universe. The entity sees all instances of time simultaneously, removing all unknowns. Most importantly, “The progression from physical cause to stimulus to motivate to will would then be completed by a perfection of will capable of overriding all causative forces which operate at the four Levels of Being known to us.” (Schumacher 29). A god acts as he wants never as he needs. Note— I am hesitant to capitalize “god” because multiplicity of such beings are just as possible as a singular God entity.
Among my three years of high school, I have considered myself a young student of science. I enjoyed my biology, chemistry, and physics classes as well as participated in scientific research the past two summers. To maximize my senior year, I doubled up on science taking both AP Biology and AP Physics. Observing the current world over the past summer, science does seem to be the overwhelming force; any other belief system seems to be harassed endlessly as backward progression of man’s intellect. Schumacher anticipates my thoughts as part of the group of people
“who recognize the value and necessity of a “science of understanding” [yet] cannot resist the hypnotic power of the allegedly scientific picture presented to them and lose the courage as well as the inclination to consult, and profit from, the “wisdom tradition of mankind.” (Schumacher 56).
The feeling of forced hypnotism is an extremely descriptive concept, one I now sense during my daily life in the scientific community.
My case study is my relation to biology and grappling with definitions of life. My biology book tells me that life is a system of molecules that regulate themselves, create new copies of themselves, and change with each generation to better live in the environment. The book explains that organisms we see, from petals on a flower to a flying hawk, exist as emergent properties of molecular scale interactions (Campbell et. al). When Emergent property theories dominate biology, it simplifies life to a series of random chemical reactions that a cell stacks in its favor to remain functioning.
Schumacher gives me a different statement to observe life with his discussion of ontology, or chain of being consisting of: m, x, y, and z — mentioned above. His distinction is that the levels are ontological discontinuities or the difference in each successive step is absolutely distinct and harbors unique attributes different from lower levels (Schumacher). This ontological explanation is a throwback to vitalism, or the idea that there are unexplained forces that cause life to exist. Schumacher supports his idea; “There is nothing in the laws, concepts, and formulae of physics and chemistry to explain or even to describe such powers.” (Schumacher 16), yet I find that the vital “x-factor” is a massive proposition to accept in my mind. How can I accept a force I don’t see to have an affect on life I do see? On the other hand, to absolutely accept the biological emergent property explanation, there are unimaginably large series of probability statistics that obscure the “random formation and maintenance of life” argument.
The greatest problem that appears when I try support one of the above conclusions is their answers require a role reversal. The biologic randomness answer means that I indirectly have faith (which I define as supporting an idea with the will power derived from my z factor without other empirical evidence) in the universal laws of probability. I find this cop-out upsetting because of the power probability steals from the Ω-factor being(s). Albert Einstein sparks my unrest with his quote “I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.” ("Albert Einstein"). Why should a being with the Ω-factor, whose will is the single most powerful force among all the ontological interactions, accept that actions in the universe occur without their conscious decision to do so? If Ω-factor beings have absolute will, they would not allow forces of probability to replace their absolute decision-making.
So now I try to accept Schumacher’s ideas of distinct levels of being. I know there are invisible forces, like radio waves and magnetic attraction, that science accepts. What about those that science does not accept? Just because we do not have the proper “eye” to see the unknown forces that affect the ontological levels does not automatically mean they do not exist (Schumacher). I find it is arrogant to assume that my species, spawned on one small planet in the outskirts of one galaxy must have all the organs to see all the forces in the galaxy. This extension means that the forces behind the ontological levels could exist without direct empirical evidence.
But I must stop. The above paragraph is logical, but that aspect, itself, means I have failed Schumacher’s original point. I am trying to use logic to explain phenomena even though he says, “life is bigger than logic.” (Schumacher 123). I cannot use logic to support his idea. Nor can I have faith in probability to support the scientific analysis of life. I am in paradox, but I feel comfort in Simone Weil’s statement that,
“a human being succeeds in making an effort of attention with the sole idea of increasing his grasp of truth, he acquires a greater aptitude for grasping it, even if his effort produces no visible fruit.” (Weil 107).
Wait, there are still other ways of thinking! I partially borrow this new idea from the concept of the Jedi philosophy in Star Wars. Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Jedi Master inspired my thoughts, "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." (Lucas). This quote, applied to the Schumacher’s ontology implies that there is no energy that creates the levels of x but rather the x level creates its own energy. I find such a concept similar to the Quaker belief that, as a human, means I automatically have a sacred inner light. A concrete bunker with no plants has a different energy from a pasture; the feeling comes from the plant’s life itself. Furthermore, standing in an empty cathedral is different from standing there during a full Easter mass. Each entity in the ontological levels greater than m produces energy that human beings can sense.
Science and philosophy will continue to battle in my mind. I respect the understanding science gives me; its reasons for many of life’s events. I also agree with Schumacher’s hesitance to deluge the human mind with science. If I cannot side with their differences, I’ll accept what they agree on, life. I draw my conclusion from another source of science fiction. "If you need something to worship, then worship life - all life, every last crawling bit of it! We're all in this beauty together!" (Herbert)
"Albert Einstein." Wikiquote. Web. 17 Oct. 2010.
Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B., & Urry, L.A., & Cain, M.L. & Wasserman, S.A. & Minorsky, P.V. et al. (2008). AP Edition Biology, Eighth Edition. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
Herbert, Frank. Quote from Paul Atreus, the Muad’Dib. Dune Messiah.
Lucas, George. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.