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Frederick Turner

Abstract

In a group of poems several time-related themes are explored in imagistic and narrative terms. The sequence imagines answers to such questions as: What would it feel like to live a second life? If medical science can extend life for many, what would be the sociopolitical implications? How much would such experience replicate mystical conceptions such as reincarnation, afterlife, etc? How would memory survive such a massive reorganization of brain and body? What would be the moral and psychological consequences of not having the pressure of death in one's future? How would personal relationships be affected? What are the implications for authentic living?

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Frederick Turner

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Frederick Turner

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Pascal’s wager implies the incommensurability of quality and quantity, but the emergence of new order with qualitatively unprecedented states upon the quantitative crossing of natural thresholds questions any simple dualism and points to special characteristics of time. The presence of natural thresholds requires that the universe cannot be understood in a purely analog fashion, as composed of smooth gradients analysable by probabilistic and statistical means. It must also be seen as constitutively granular and quantized, like the counters and turns of a game, and capable of unpredictable creativity. Mathematics implies a threshold between the computable and the uncomputable. Physics requires quanta and a distinction between the reversible and the irreversible. Chemistry dictates catastrophic changes of state. Evolutionary biology requires distinct competing individuals. Neuroscience requires the emergence of qualitatively irreducible cognitive capacities. Economic activity implies unpredictable financial crises. Information theory requires distinct signals distinguishable from noise. Freedom and responsibility, art and poetry can be understood in the light of threshold-crossing. American pragmatism, French evolutionary philosophy, chaos and complexity theory, game theory and the framework provided by J.T. Fraser’s work can guide future investigations of natural thresholds.

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Frederick Turner

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This summary of the fundamental insights of J.T. Fraser dwells on four main themes. The first is the way that Fraser disposes of the ancient struggle between monism and dualism, with its related problem of ontology versus epistemology. His tree-like vision of the evolution of the many out of the one is both ordered and open-ended. The second is his critique of philosophy’s (and science’s) tendency to reify simple, defined, pure, and exclusive abstractions. Subjectivity, intentionality, consciousness, freedom, mind, cause, and the experience of time are shown by him to be composite, present in different degrees and kinds in different organisms and different times, constructed and complex. The third theme is Fraser’s decisive refutation of the metaphor of time as a line, as in clocks, calendars, and the t-axis in science. We must explore other geometries. The fourth theme is Fraser’s rehabilitations of the arts, including literature, as potentially legitimate ways of understanding the world and exploring the nature of time.

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Frederick Turner

We human beings face two insults to our knowledge: our ignorance of the future, and our inability to know how things work. Science retorts to these two insults by two means: trying out predictive hypotheses about outcomes by experiment, and understanding the workings of the whole by breaking it down into parts: prediction and reduction. Lestienne recognizes these two insults as being the same insult, and the two retorts as the same retort. If the insult is uncertainty, the retort is determinism. But determinism looks very much like selective hindsight; we see only what confirms our post-facto theory of the result. Lestienne invites us to consider a different answer: wholes emerge from parts as future emerges from present. Lestienne’s three characters debate the coherence of the concept of emergence: does it complicate the concept of cause to the extent of depriving science of its usefulness? Can cause be top-down, from wholes to parts, as well as bottom-up, from parts to wholes? Can future possible wholes be “waiting” to be caused by the right chance combination of parts? Can there be more than one possible future?

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Frederick Turner

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In this paper I take as an experimental hypothesis the idea that all religions are true. The problem would be how to pack all those religious truths into the same universe: What would the universe have to be shaped like to contain them all? Given two implications that flow from the uniqueness and unity of the universe - 1. if God exists, he is in the universe; and 2. we can see things indirectly - it makes good sense to attempt to see God. Though there may not be enough room in space for the divine, there may well be room enough in time. Fraser's evolutionary universe with its hierarchy of temporal umwelts provides plenty of ways for the divine to appear in different guises. Contemporary cosmology and computational physics suggest that the universe can best be considered as made of information, engaged in computation of its own future states. If this is true, it is constituted of three warring computational systems: a timeless but unreal Bohm quantum computer, a massively parallel but badly damaged Turing machine with considerable degrees of freedom, and a genetic-algorithm ensemble of fast self-progamming computers (sentient life). These make up the emergent tricameral mind of God.

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Frederick Turner

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Frederick Turner